Sunday, 28 May 2017

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - Salazar's Revenge

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge / Dead Men Tell No Tales (2D)
Cert: 12A / 129 mins / Dir. Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg / Trailer

Now the main thing to bear in mind for the duration of this review is, Salazar's Revenge*1 wasn't going to be 'for' me. And I'm fine with that. I've never really found Disney's PotC series any more than quite good at best, and my recent live-tweeting of installments one-to-four was knocked on the head after the first two, as I was becoming bogged down by the rapid succession of the things I didn't like about them.

So, we're now approximately nineteen years down the line from the end of At World's End, and young Henry Turner (Brendon Thwaites) thinks he's figured out a way to free his father Will (Orlando Bloom) from his 'Being The Captain Of The Flying Dutchman' curse. This will involve tracking down Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Meanwhile elsewhere, young scientist and scholar Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is on the verge of being executed by her townsfolk for witchcraft, and is determined to discover the identity of her long-lost father. This will involve a chance meeting with Jack Sparrow (Spoiler: he's not her dad). Old faces from movies past return for the outing (although there are more than a few notable by their absence), and despite having a superb villain in the form of Javier Bardem's Salazar (think: a livid, Spanish Darth Vader), the inevitable violence is kept within 12A-certificate levels. For a family thrill-ride, you could do a lot worse.

I just didn't find the finished product particularly interesting. And it's not as if there's an absence of plot mechanics or pacing issues slow that plot down at all; action set-pieces are delivered, swashes are buckled and timbers are shivered with watch-setting regularity. I just couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen all of this before, and barely even in a different order.

Outside of the aforementioned scene-stealing by Sr. Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, Brendan Thwaites and Geoffrey Rush are all aching for a better screenplay, their obvious talent largely wasted. But I may as well join the choir in saying that the real problem here is Johnny Depp, not even mustering his usual lacklustre levels of performance. By this point, Jack Sparrow*2 feels like he should be an incidental character in 'Allo 'Allo, wheeled out once a week with his worn-out schtick in the hope that audience-familiarity will be enough to pad over the gaps in the script. It won't. If anything, the one-note seafarer is just getting in the way now, the very agent holding the series back rather than pushing it boldly forward. Ironically, the character has become more of an anchor than Disney ever intended.

All that said, I don't feel able to lay out the beating that many critics are currently getting off their chests, if only because I don't feel the film's put in enough effort to really warrant one. There are good things in PotC5, but nowhere near enough of them and for nowhere near as long as they need to be.

However, it's also important to note that I actually fell asleep during the multi-million dollar, climactic battle of Salazar's Revenge. I mean only to the point where I jolted myself awake, but still. What can I tell you? By that point I was all out of fucks to give, and the murky*3, fast-cut action/mayhem shaky-cam, coupled with what can only be described as overwhelming symphony of grey-noise from the orchestra, audio-effects department and indeed the cast, basically just said to my brain 'you can't actually concentrate on any of what's meant to be happening here. Just sleep and pick it all up from the ending you know is in the post anyway'.

And with the exception of Bardem, the after-credits sequence made me happier than anything in the preceding one hundred and twenty eight minutes.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The other PotC films.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Only if you like watching the same thing again but bigger and louder.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I have no idea.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Going to go out on a limb here and say no.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not. But you'll have to explain yourself.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Sabé and Tion Medon are in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 No you're right, Ian Disney, giving a different episode-title just for the UK release makes absolute sense. I'm assuming this is so you can tell how many cam-jobs are originating from our shores, given that it's not like "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is a phrase us Brits would look at and think 'hey hang on, how is that pirate-related?'. [ BACK ]

*2 Sorry, 'Captain' Jack Sparrow. Hahaha, yeah, that never gets old… [ BACK ]

*3 And given that the final half hour is way too dark (visually) in 2D, my heart goes out to the poor saps who watched this in 3D and had to put up with the associated light-loss… [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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