At this point, the Pirates of the Carribean franchise has become the cinematic equivalent of a drunken man stumbling to a vague destination using the most inane route possible. As the series has worn on, its beating heart has resided in the various vignettes and narrative excursions that have pervaded the series like scurvy. The fifth picture entitled Salazer’s Revenge (the US got the far superior Dead Men Tell No Tales) proves to be the most semi-comprehensible, the series has gotten since The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Crucially, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg understand the appeal of Johnny Depp as a silent comic actor and construct set pieces that accentuate this facet of the famous movie star. A scene early in the picture depicts an amusing heist where a collapsing house drags a minuscule bank vault with treasure, and Depp’s bemused facial expressions call to mind the bewildered silent comic stylings of Buster Keaton. And a prolonged comic interlude involving Sparrow escaping from a guillotine and subsequently fighting while retaining parts of it imbue the character with a rejuvenated physical comedic wit.
At the same time, the film reinforces more elegantly than any other instalment the pervading theme of heroes rarely living up their lionised status. A sequence involving the young Sparrow jostling with a pre-supernatural Captain Salazer (played by Javier Bardem with a mockable Spaniard inspired Schwarzenegger accent) shows the character at his boldest and most valiant. This is juxtaposed with his current self who does not command the same respect he once did, as the character is mocked by members of his crew as well as the younger generation.
Moreover, Carina Smyth (played with earnest gusto by Kaya Scodelario) represents the franchise at its most self-reflexive as her character comments upon the time she exists in and the dubious backstabbing machinations that have plagued the series. Unfortunately, the rest of the proceedings prove to be an overwrought and bombastic mess that varies between being an expensive remake of Carry on Cruising and generic hyperkinetic blockbuster fare.
Though a few of the dynamic aerial shots and tango inspired horror sequences are impressive. In one scene Salazer establishes that whenever he taps his foot one of his men dispatches of their hosts’ crew with lighting efficiency. The scene proves to be a welcome tonic to the televisual drudgery and mechanical direction of the last movie (On Stranger Tides).
Any hopes of this being the last Pirates movie is marred by the stupefying implications of the central McGuffin. In this film, the object of conquest is the Trident of Poseidon. It enables its user to break all curses and make people seem like they are on an endless waterslide, amusingly demonstrated during one scene in the climactic battle sequence. The coffin has not been so much laid down than given tiny holes for continued fragile life.