I weep internally now the consensus seems to be that Johnny Depp is the butt of hate and jokes, and justifiably so. How does the man who put in the brilliant shift as Donnie Brasco devolve into a mere bundle of pantomime drivel? I don’t know, but it happened and “forget about it” now feels like a dream in a lifetime long past.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (or Dead Men Tell No Tales) continues the parodification of Depp, who returns with zero restraint and irritable slapstick as the eccentric drunken Captain Jack Sparrow. Gone are the charm, fascination and languid charisma that made Sparrow an adventure character befitting of cavalier tag we like to attach to pirate tales. I am tempted to revisit the 2003 franchise opener but I fear I may erode what little goodwill this character has.
Salazar’s Revenge is such a dismal re-tread of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean films, but unlike the previous entries which felt like guilty pleasures, this feels a little cheap (given the $230 million budget) and lazy and clunky and just ponderous, in addition to being a shameless money grab. It riffs off the Fast and Furious franchise in the first action sequence and I started to appreciate Gore Verbinski’s feel for entertaining well-paced set-pieces. There is little investment from this directing duo (Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg) and as for the script, I could have pitched and plotted this film – not a good thing.
The previous Franchise entry, On Stranger Tides, had the fountain of youth at the end of its rat race. Salazar’s Revenge has Poseidon’s Trident and we learn it has the ability to break all sea curses. Two yung’uns (Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites) cross paths en route to the Trident for different reasons and Sparrow, by the first of many contrivances, becomes invested in this quest too. The constants of the British Navy (David Wenham), Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) and a supernatural force, embodied by Javier Bardem and his ghost army, hounding Sparrow.
I spent the majority of this laboured two-hour film wondering what could have been done to make it more absorbing. Maybe Fury Road on the sea with wild ship chases. Maybe the script could have gone full camp and draw on Wacky Races or maybe just played the “prize” as a proper McGuffin. But the journey is basically Sparrow waving his arms around like he’s doing an ignorant impression of a drunk gay man as the film tries to pretend audiences remembers a time in the last decade where we took this now-obviously incompetent pirate seriously.
We get a few jokes here and there that land. The persistent witch jokes, however, are especially stupid, misjudged and annoying. I want to feel sorry for Scodelario and Thwaites because they are suffocated by Depp and not given room to do anything meaningful by the script. But then, they are cashing juicy cheques. As for Rush’s Barbosa, he embodies the David Chapelle “they should not have given you money” gag, and as a mark of the absolute nothingness of On Stranger Tides, I can’t remember how Barbosa got to this point. His also arch tries to tug at our heart strings and it gets an “E” for effort. Yay!
The most bizarre thing Salazar’s Revenge does is offer an explanation for the name Sparrow – because that was the unbearable itch the world of cinema needed scratching. We delve deeper into the Pirates mythology with more of an explanation to Sparrow’s mystical compass and it is interesting for a minute but falls flat when woven into another ridiculous contrivance.
I went into Salazar’s Revenge with extremely low expectations and the dreary package on screen was no bombshell. I just wasn’t expecting a film that cared little for its audience, a film that was simply rotten photocopy with all the soul sucked out of it. Salazar’s Revenge would have been a credit if it made me feel angry or disappointed. But it just made me feel sorry for myself for being part of a machine that makes an incoherent bore fest an open goal for these studios.