The latest instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise finds Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow being pursued by a cursed captain and his crew led by Javier Bardem.
Four sequels in after 2003’s first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Gore Verbinski has now vacated the director’s chair for the team of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg on the basis of their excellent, Oscar-nominated movie ’Kon-Tiki’. In the past where Verbinski was obsessed with making every action an elongated fairground ride, the Norwegians here have managed to rein in the plot, if not the dialogue.
…Jack is both the franchise’s biggest star but also its largest liability.
Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow still lurches through his lines, oblivious to their import and irrelevant to their answer. Stumbling from set piece to set piece, his Jack is both the franchise’s biggest star but also its largest liability. Living a groundhog-like existence on the stormy seas: Jack gets into trouble, Jack gets hunted down, Jack gets out of trouble – the plot of Salazar’s Revenge like the previous ‘Pirates’ sequels, offers the audience little or no real surprises. So, like the other ‘Pirates’ instalments, Salazar’s Revenge can occasionally feel like just another vehicle for Depp’s Sparrow to flutter, blinking-ly in-between the other actors. But that’s where the buried treasure lies. For whilst their screen time may be limited and their characters resolutely cut-out, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem and (a criminally under-used) Stephen Graham still offer admirable support to the arrival of Kaya Scodelario, all of whom hungrily feed on the scraps they’re given.
By its end, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge still feels like a mixed bag of jewels. Dragging a lighter two hour running time behind it and a less-frenetic visual style than Verbinski’s sardine-squished sequels, this Pirates movie has pleasingly moved its compass back towards a clearer plot, less characters and a shorter running time. And whilst this episode should fare well through this summer’s buffeting box office receipts and critical maulings, you can’t help but feel it will be weighed down by the presence of its conspicuous lead. Now with all of the franchise’s plot-lines now tied-up astern, and the director’s empty chair spinning on the aft deck, it will be interesting to see what the next pair of hands will do with this ship, and more importantly, her star.