In Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, Captain Jack Sparrow faces off with a dead, decomposing Spanish navy captain played by Javier Bardem. Salazar’s vehicle is a ghost ship manned by men who exist as parts. At one point, they let loose zombie sharks on Sparrow – the dead creatures spring back to life when they hit the water and start mangling whatever they see.
As I watched this, it occurred to me that this franchise has become like Salzar’s crew – a ghost of its former rowdy, vibrant self. It’s tattered and tedious and flat-out boring. Even the character of Jack Sparrow, who Johnny Depp had once described as a romantic skunk, is dead on arrival. There is no joy or levity or energy left here.
Which is shocking when you see the talent aboard the ship – two Oscar winners – Bardem and Geoffrey Rush who is back as Captain Barbossa. Oscar nominated actors Depp and Keira Knightley and the Norwegian directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg who won an Oscar nomination for their film Kon-Tiki. All these names and a budget of 230 million dollars don’t result in a half-decent film. This is after all a franchise inspired by a theme-park ride – all we want is a bit of fun. But even that proves elusive.
Once again, Jack is in trouble. He is being chased by the ghostly Salazar. He’s also being chased by Barbossa and Will Turner’s son Henry played by Brenton Thwaites. There’s a feisty astronomer Carina played by Kaya Scodelario. To defeat Salazar, they must find the Trident of Poseidon and take control of the seas.
The screenplay by Jeff Nathanson doesn’t offer novelty or surprise. The set-piece CGI battles don’t induce wonder. The new leads – Brenton and Kaya – don’t make much of an impression. There are some stunning visuals but they get lost in the leaden narrative.
And all the running and chasing leads to an emotional family reunion in the climax. The characters discover how they are related as they hang on for their dear lives – this scene took me straight back to the climax of Trimurti – you remember that Subhash Ghai produced-Mukul Anand directed disaster? In which estranged brothers find out they are brothers as they hang on a cliff. I laughed so hard that I cried. Pirates has a whiff of that but it’s not as much fun.
Captain Jack Sparrow is one of cinema’s most memorable characters. But there are some ships that even he can’t save from sinking.