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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Review

ASelenatorsView ASelenatorsView Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge is the 5th instalment in the franchise and is directed by Joachim Running and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki). The film stars Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Skyfall), Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare in Love, The King's Speech), Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner, Skins) and Brenton Thwaites (Gods of Egypt, Maleficent). "Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon". Is this a franchise to treasure or is it a sinking ship?

I know I'm in the minority here but I actually enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 - it's an extremely flawed film, but also a very fun one. What likely helped was the fact I went in with rock bottom expectations so the only way the film could go was up. Salazar's Revenge (the inferior title to Dead Men Tell No Tales) is an entertaining and pleasant fantasy adventure that should delight fans of the franchise. I was worried going into Pirates 5 that I would not enjoy it - I have enjoyed all of the Pirates films as of yet but I saw them all prior to 2011 - a time where I didn't really pay attention to the quality of films and enjoyed most that I saw. However, I came out, happily still a fan of the series. It's a pirates life for me!
Admittedly, it took me a while to get into the film - I found the opening scene pretty hard to get through. A terrible and cringe-worthy performance from a child actor interacting with Orlando Bloom and talking about something that, at the time. was complete nonsense to the audience. The opening action scene that introduced the characters was also quite silly but everything got much better from the execution scene onwards. I actually think that this is the first 'dumb but fun' film of the year - it does not take itself seriously at all, there is no message and unfortunately, there isn't really any creative effort. Most plot points and moments are recycled and repackaged from other films. Whether that be the opening action sequence that paid homage (or ripped off) the finale of Fast 5 or the two new characters that were basically replicates of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. If a little more effort was put in by the writers and directors - a solid film good be turned into a great one.

The story was pretty straight-forward and easy to follow - Jack Sparrow, Carina Smyth and Henry Turner all have different motives for finding the trident of Poseidon and each motive is pretty understandable; Jack needs it to stop Salazar, Carina needs it for her father's legacy and Henry needs it to rescue his father, Will. The film attempts to explore child/father relationships but I don't really think it does much with it - there is a twist towards the end involving Carina and other than an action of sacrifice, the film doesn't really develop or use the twist to its advantage. Despite Salazar's motives being rather simple, they were also easy to understand - Jack led him to the curse so he wants revenge (and he despises pirates anyway). I thought Salazar was quite a good villain - visually, he was really interesting and narratively, he was a good enough villain to add to the plot.
On the topic of visuals, Salazar was very well realised - I just wish he sounded less like a computer generated voice and more of a monster. The visual effects made Salazar a creepy and scary villain - the scene where Salazar and his henchmen run on the sea was particularly memorable and well done. The visual effects involving the ocean were good and it all worked. However, I thought some of the backdrops looked artificial - especially towards the end of the film. Magic also plays a big part in Pirates 5 in comparison to the others in the series (if I remember rightly) and I can't decide whether I thought it fit well or not. However, the final result/conclusion definitely opens doors for future films - SPOILERS - the trident has broken all curses which means previous villains can return and basically everything from the past is undone!

Salazar's Revenge is silly but fun - this is perfectly captured in most action sequences. As I mentioned, the film began and I was not impressed and then the first action moment began but as it progressed, I enjoyed it more - I realised and acknowledged that this film wasn't going to be a sophisticated action fantasy, it was going to be stupid and silly. Pirates 5 is definitely a film to just turn your brain off and have fun. A lot of the comedy does fall flat and come off as cringe-worthy however. My favourite scene was the execution scene - I really liked it when Jack Sparrow and Carina were getting saved - the moment where the guillotine was spinning around was excellent - it was a rare creative moment in the film but was quite thrilling. I also liked how Salazar left one man alive on each ship to tell the tale.

I have mixed feelings towards Johnny Depp these days - I couldn't stand him in Alice Through the Looking Glass but the glimpse we got of him in Fantastic Beasts was promising. Jack Sparrow is arguably Depp's most famous and successful role. Unfortunately, the character has fallen quite a lot - it didn't feel like Depp or Sparrow was carrying this film, the character returns back to supporting status. I also think Jack Sparrow in the previous films would be pretty embarrassed of himself here - he gives up his prized possession for alcohol and spends a lot of the film as a drunk laughing stock. Sparrow hits rock bottom early on in the film and picks himself up - the film could have showed the arc a little clearer a la Efron's character in Baywatch. Depp's performance is fine but he definitely isn't what he used to be. I also have mixed feelings towards Javier Bardem in this film - visually, he looked great and I thought he was good when in his human form. However, I really didn't like how Salazar sounded - if I was Bardem, I would not be happy with the editing team as they have portrayed a likely good performance pretty poorly. Geoffrey Rush is an acclaimed actor and honestly, he felt above all of this - Rush phoned it in and I wasn't keen on his performance. As for the newbies, Brenton Thwaites was fine and so was Kaya Scodelario. Neither made that big of an impression on me but both did the best they could.

Kaya Scodelario's Carina is a problematic female character. I am sure she was written with good intentions and I have honestly seen way worse representations but this is the other end of the spectrum - for mainstream audiences (we saw how they reacted to Ghostbusters), feminism is a touchy subject. Film's like Beauty and the Beast have handled feminism wonderfully by doing it subtly but still making an impression. Every scene Carina is in - her gender is mentioned and her main motive in life is to prove she can do things better than men. Females should be able to be a part of the group without their gender being acknowledged and everyone should be equal - after all, equality is what we aspire for. I usually love a strong and empowered female character but if you're looking for one of those - Katniss Everdeen, Elsa, Rey and Belle are all way better examples than Carina in Pirates 5. Strong female characters - Just do it but you don't have to shout about it or it puts audiences off.

Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley play a very small part in the film - the latter less than a minute. Bloom actually plays a big part in the film's narrative - being the motive for Henry. However, both do feature in the post-credit scene which is one of the most effective and exciting ones I've seen in a while but probably one of the most under-watched as only 2 others waited for it! It really does hint at a return to form and felt way more sophisticated than the entire film before it.
Despite it being a seriously flawed film, many of which are acknowledged above - there is just something about Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge that I liked. It is a great example of escapism - turn your brain off and forget about the world for 2 hours and go into the fantastical world of the Pirates. Yes, the film lacks creativity and has nothing to say but it is the perfect example of what has become the modern summer blockbuster - on the lines of The Legend of Tarzan, Journey 2 and San Andreas. It's fun and silly but you'll likely have a good time.


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