PiRates of the caribbean: Salazar's Revenge

REVIEW BY REBECCA WYNNE-WALSH

A wave of nostalgia and a happy sense of familiarity inescapably wash over you as a pirate flag fills the screen and that instantly recognisable music kicks off. The latest instalment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is acutely aware of the successes and pitfalls of its predecessors; the filmmakers have chosen to repeat what they know will work. This makes for a hugely entertaining film if not an intellectually or narratively engaging one, but then again that’s probably not what they were going for.

As advertised heavily, plenty of fan favourite characters make an appearance in this instalment. There’s the ever loveable Gibbs, the hilariously idiotic pair Murtogg and Mulroy, Pirates mainstay Captain Barbossa, and of course, the essential Captain Jack Sparrow. Two characters however, whose return sent the internet into a frenzy, were given less than satisfactory screen-time. These are unfortunately Will Turner, now cursed to captain of the Flying Dutchman, and Elizabeth Swann, who we last met as the pirate queen of the Caribbean. These characters, whose return was the centre of much hype, barely fill ten minutes of the film, with their prolonged absences disappointingly conspicuous in the scenes in between. That said, whenever the beloved Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly do grace the screen their characters share poignant, heartfelt moments around which the entire narrative is centred.

The supposed "next generation" sees Brenton Thwaites (as the son of Elizabeth and Will) and Kaya Scodelario, of Skins-fame, present themselves as pale imitations of Will and Elizabeth. The latter pair had acted as the romantic emotional core of the original trilogy while Thwaites and Scodelario's offering is decidedly vacant and underwhelming in comparison. The forced romance between the young new leads fails to provide a balancing contrast to Jack Sparrow's comedic antics. One might suggest that writer Jeff Nathanson might have produced a fresher, more genuine addition to the Pirates universe had he created more original characters, rather than simply rehashing old reliables.

Throughout this film, reliable is the operative word. Javier Bardem's sadistic ghost, Captain Salazar, has the perfect blend of characteristics from the well-received villains of the first two films (Barbossa and Davy Jones respectively). There is a welcome return to the hand-to-hand combat sequences within the British-run, Caribbean port-towns that were the action highlight of The Curse of the Black Pearl. It remains unendingly enjoyable and engaging to see actors performing with real stunts and engaging with real sets throughout such an action packed blockbuster. For all its fantastical elements, the Pirates franchise has always been unflinchingly committed to building a believable world. The attention to detail in the production design of Salazar's Revenge is incredible. Costumes, sets and make-up are all superb.

Much of the criticism that the first big blockbuster of this summer, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, received centred on the fact that the film was so busy setting itself up for sequels that it forgot to set up characters worth investing in or a world viewers are eager to immerse themselves in. Captain Jack Sparrow's history and mythology alone provide a wealth of opportunity for this franchise. No matter what public opinion may be on Johnny Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow remains the hilarious, scene-stealing swashbuckler with a heart (and a tooth!) of gold that he has always been. This time around, however, the filmmakers have recognised their mistake from On Stranger Tides and have acknowledged that Pirates of the Caribbean cannot rest solely on the shoulders of Jack Sparrow, the character needs to zigzag through the plot rather than be its centre; which he does here with effortless charm.

Salazar’s Revenge acts as a kind of “greatest hits” of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise so far. This film is a good old-fashioned romp of entertainment, laughs, nostalgia and adventure. The story is very simple; the earlier entries in the franchise have certainly shown more depth both morally and emotionally. That said, the well-defined characters are, as ever, worth watching, even the infamous Black Pearl feels like a returning old friend as it emerges from the ocean. The action is well done, keeping you on the edge of your seat without overshadowing its purpose in the plot and the all-important comedy is never forgotten. Though not the best nor the most original film in the franchise, Salazar’s Revenge delivers on exactly what it sets out to be, a thoroughly entertainingly, heart-warming, action-packed pirate adventure.