To be honest I enjoy sequels and franchises as long as they keep up the standard and improve upon previous entries, which sadly often isn’t the case. I have reviewed countless sequels over the years and with this review I don’t want to regurgitate what I have previously written about franchises, and I will try to keep this to a minimum with this review as I don’t want to go over old ground; but rather tread new waters (pun fully intended).
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a pleasant surprise to a lot of people when it came out in 2003. Many asked how could a film based on an old amusement park ride have such an effect on audiences around the world, and the answer is because it was fun. Cutthroat Island (1995) was a well-documented bomb at the box office and it was a risky move for Disney to release the first Pirates film, but it paid off both financially and critically.
Unsurprisingly a two part sequel ala The Matrix Reloaded / Revolutions (2003) was greenlit and released in 2006 and 2007 and in my opinion these were overly long and boring, but had some great set pieces and new characters, such as Bill Nighy’s villainous Davy Jones being a worthy replacement to Geoffrey Rush’s scene stealing Captain Barbossa. A fourth film came out in 2011 and I honestly can’t remember much of it as it lacked the magic, adventure and overall fun of its predecessors, and to be honest I had low expectations for this entry.
That being said I thought Salazar’s Revenge managed to recapture the tomfoolery of the first film perfectly, didn’t drag despite its long run time and is the best entry since the original.
The basic plot of this film has Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) on a quest to find the fabled trident of Poseidon in order to stop his old foe, Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghostly crew from destroying every pirate at sea.
In a way it channels the spirit of the first film which is by no means a bad thing. Overall it doesn’t really add too much to the tried and tested formula, but it gets the balance of humour, fun and playful set pieces and macabre villainy that we all know and love just right. Johnny Depp is known for many roles throughout his career but none more iconic that Jack Sparrow, who gets a great yet predictable introduction in this film. That being said the film isn’t focused entirely on him and the rest of the characters get their fair share of screen time.
Jack is joined by his usual shipmates and we have a welcome return from Captain Barbossa. New additions are Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner and Elisabeth Swan, who is searching for Jack in order to lift the curse upon his father, and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who for me is a great addition to this film as the (seemingly token these days) smart and strong female character.
Javier Bardem is great as the tortured and vengeful Captain Salazar and you can tell (as per most of the cast) that they had fun making this film. It has been well publicised that Paul McCartney has a cameo in this film, but in truth I wish they would have included Michael Bolton, as his song ‘Jack Sparrow’ with The Lonely Island is one of the best things you can find on the internet.
As per most films it does have its flaws and plot holes. Without spoiling too much the search for Carina Smyth’s father seems shoe horned in, and the origin of the curse on Salazar’s ghostly crew isn’t fully explained, nor is how they were released from the Devil’s Triangle, but I can live with that. It manages to tie up the main plot and unsurprisingly leaves things open for future instalments, and as per its predecessors it features a tantalizing after credits scene which you should stay behind for.
With Salazar’s Revenge (or Dead Men Tell No Tales as it’s known in other territories, not sure why they changed this to be honest) Disney have managed to recapture what made the first entry a success and despite my initial low expectations, I really enjoyed this adventure. They have stuck to the standard formula of the series but trimmed the often pointless side plots, and in a way mostly ignored the events of parts two, three and four so new audiences won’t have any issues watching this film if they are new to the franchise, which I think is a smart move.
The screenplay is by Jeff Nathanson, who has written the likes of Rush Hour 2 and 3 (2001, 2007), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), as well as the upcoming Lion King remake, and as such has experience in expanding existing franchises. This is apparent with this film but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for this film to be predictable or cover similar ground as audiences know what to expect, know what they like, and are happy to see the continuing adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Overall Verdict: The fun and magic has returned to this franchise and this is the best entry since The Curse of the Black Pearl. We have all the regulars you know and love mixed with a new macabre villain, with plenty of laughs and great set pieces this great example of how to do a summer blockbuster.
Reviewer: George Elcombe