Director Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg
Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario
Released 26th May 2017
After directing the first three Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, Gore Verbinski decided to call it a day and went on to direct The Lone Ranger. In the meantime, the franchise moved on to director Rob Marshall (Chicago and currently making Mary Poppins Returns) and now, for number five, it’s acquired the Norwegian duo of Ronning and Sandberg – and the latter is already signed up to direct number six as a solo gig. Regardless of the title.
Neither of them have any Disney experience, or have ever made a film of this style, let alone profile, but they’ve done a decent job. Perhaps theirs was the breath of fresh air that the franchise needed. Let’s face it, by the time you get to number five, options are increasingly limited and the danger of getting stale and repetitive is seriously on the up.
This instalment starts with Depp’s anti-hero Jack Sparrow decidedly down on his luck, robbing a bank and dicing with death – as usual. None of which goes according to plan, but bigger trouble is looming on the horizon, in the see-through shape of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghost pirates, who are hell bent on killing everybody. Number one on their list is Sparrow. His only hope is to track down the Trident Of Poseidon, but to do that he has to work with headstrong sailor Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). But he’ll do anything to save his neck in face of Salazar’s declared revenge.
Much is made out of the fact that Jack is down on his luck – he’s told it by a number of people. And you start to wonder if the film is going to be more about Depp – accidentally or otherwise – than he would like it to be. It doesn’t work out that way, but in his fifth turn in the role, Depp looks like he’s run out of steam – or perhaps good old fashioned interest. This time round he’s hammy – not that he’s ever been subtle – and we’re so used to him playing this role over and over again (sometime in different guises) that it lessens the laughs. Sadly the new directors couldn’t extend their fresh perspective to him because this is one very tired looking Sparrow.
His main adversary, Bardem’s Captain Salazar, is intent on making sure you pronounce his name properly, by overdoing his Spanish accent. As a role, it’s no great stretch, but the way he’s been CGI’d, with most of the back of his head missing and his hair constantly blowing around like the Medusa’s snakes, is very effective. His followers also have various parts missing although, strangely enough, their swords are all completely intact. But the ghosts do have one weakness: they can’t survive on land, disappearing into puffs of ash if their feet so much as touch the ground. We only discover that when they pursue Sparrow onto a desert island. Convenient!
And, yet again, we’re presented with another celebrity cameo. David Beckham scored first – if you can call it that – with his appearance in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword. This time we’re treated to Paul McCartney – not that you won’t recognise him, even if he does look like he’s borrowed a spare set of Depp’s costume and his personal make-up artist. He gets a decent clutch of lines, which he does his best with, and he doesn’t take his moment too seriously, which is just as well.
The film has some good set pieces – the attempt to execute Sparrow for one is well choreographed, clever and funny. But, like so many other blockbusters at the moment, this one is over-reliant on CGI and doesn’t need to be. Some good old fashioned action would have been just as much fun. It’s also way too long – by half an hour at least. The climax is drawn out and, even if you’ve enjoyed the film, you’re just waiting for it to be over. By this stage, you’ve had enough.
Is Disney on to another winner? In box office terms, yep, especially as it’s released for the Bank Holiday weekend. It’s another pirates romp, it’s fresher than you might expect for number five and it’s reasonably entertaining. But how much longer can the franchise continue? While this is fun, there is the strong sense that Depp has more than had his day. Perhaps the sub-heading for number six should be Sparrow’s Farewell.
Pirates Of The Caribbean:Salazar’s Revenge is released on Friday, 26th May and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 25 May.