Confusingly known as Dead Men Tell No Tales elsewhere in the world, Salazar's Revenge is the surprising fifth outing in the Pirate's of the Caribbean franchise, coming a mere six years after the previous one. Surprising because for a film based on a Disneyland theme park ride, nobody expected even the first one to be a success, let alone lead to four not-as-good sequels. What's also surprising is that this is far and away the best of those sequels.
That's not to say that it's a great film, or even a very good one. It's OK, and of the sequels to The Curse of The Black Pearl, it's probably the most watchable (and one of the shortest – yes At World's End, I'm looking at you). Like all of them, it suffers from a little bit too much of Jonny Depp staggering and slurring his pantomimey way through the film as the now-very-annoying Captain Jack Sparrow; it was fun in the first couiple of fimlms, but this character has just grown more and more unbearable.
This time around the busy plot centres on Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who goes in search of Poseidon's mythical trident - which is said to break all the curses of the sea - and free his father from the Flying Dutchman. Jack also wants the trident, to protect him from Spanish naval captain and pirate hunter Salazar (Javier Bardem), who Jack cursed years before to sail the seas as a zombie. The pair team up with scientist (so the people of the time accuse her of being a witch) Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who is also seeking the trident to help with her search for a secret island she read about in a book that supposedly belonged to her father. Oh, and also along for the ride, for some unknonw reason is Captain Barbossa from the earlier films – probably because Geoffrey Rush was available and not too busy and the film was shot in Australia.
The best thing about Salazar's Revenge, aka Dead Men Tell No Tales – apart from the fact that it looks amazing in 3D on the MAX screen – is that it is more of the same, which should satisfy the hardcore fans of the series. But that is also the worst thing about it. This is very much an unaksed-for sequel, and it shows. The filmmakers – it's directed by Norwegians Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, two newcomers to big-budget action blockbusters – don't make full use of their greatest asset here, Javier Bardem. His titular Salazar lacks screentime, which is a crying shame because you are left wanting more of his charming yet sinister performance.
The film opens with a great setpiece, consisting of possibly the best bank robbery you will ever seen on screen, yet the rest of the film fails to top it. The lead character here, henry Turner, if somewhat bland and lifeless, played quite uncharismatically by Brenton Thwaites. Better is Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth, but the romance between her and Turner feels forced and pointless. As with all the previous POTC outings, there is heavy use of CGI throughout, most of it feeling very much seen-it-all-before- especially Salazar and his ghostly pirate crew – which was fresh and new and eyepopping in Curse of The Black Pearl, but seems rather ho-hum here (the zombie sharks in particular).
It will probably do fine at the box office, but Pirate's of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge (aka Dead Men Tell No Tales) feels like nothing more than a cynical exercise in milking a franchise that should have been laid to rest years ago. It's overstuffed with too many characters and too many plot threads that don't add up to make a satisfactory whole. And even the climax that features an ocean parting that even Moses would be proud of fails to get the heart racing and the adrenaline flowing. The way is left open at the end for yet another sequel (and yes, Pirates of the Caribbean 6 has been announced); let's hope that the one of the dozens of characters threatening to dispatch Captain Jack finally succedds and p;uts us all out of our misery.