Film review by Jason Day of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mean Tell No Tales (or Salazar’s Revenge), the latest instalment in the Johnny Depp starring pirate adventure franchise.
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Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) lives on the ship Flying Dutchman under a curse which his young son Henry can only break if he captures the trident of the Greek god Poseidon. As a grown man, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) enlists the help of an astronomer (Kaya Scodelario) to find it. Along for the ride is the elusive but forever lucky Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is being chased by the ghost of Spanish Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who wants the trident to bring himself back to life and to kill Sparrow who placed the curse of death on him.
Review, by Jason Day
Series stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley were wisely absent from the previous instalment in this blockbuster franchise-on-the-high-seas, On Stranger Tides, a tired, wet film adrift in more ways than one.
With the series’ lynch-pin Johnny Depp getting longer in the tooth, it is perhaps time to inject some younger blood into this increasingly tired format. Bruckheimer and associates have gone for a two-pronged approach here: introducing sexy and youthful stars Thwaites and Scodelario, despite their relative and rather obvious inexperience in such juggernaut movie series and also revealing character Jack Sparrow’s younger self (Anthony De La Torre – who can at least have a career as a Johnny Depp look-a-like if this series fails to find use for him).
The series has so far taken more than $3bn at the international box office, so I suspect the end is not quite nigh.
Back to the film in question: Dead Mean Tell No Lies (or Salazar’s Revenge as it is also known) despite being unimpeachably lavish ($230m is the budget – still not the most expensive of the series. On Stranger Tides, 2011 weighed in at $378m) won’t exactly shiver your timbers.
The story is hardly shipshape or, indeed, of Bristol fashion. We have the same, tired scenario of Jack’s lucky escape from near death/a treasure hunt across one of the seven seas/some cursed baddie is on the loose/a mighty sea battle concludes the action.
I would order the screenwriter to walk the plank for such laziness (ignore Orlando Bloom and a mute, panting Keira Knightley’s totally disposable cameos. Suffice to say Bloom appears to have forgotten how to act since his last Pirates appearance) but, when a film series earns its keep, its best they only tinker cosmetically at the edges of the script.
What Jeff Nathanson does work in to the movie, and quite well, is the theme of father’s and their role in shaping their children’s destiny, whether present or in absentia. All of the new character’s introduced here are either searching for or trying to help their father’s. In Salazar’s case, his fate comes about because of a psychotic determination to avenge his death.
Scodelario has never met her father and, rather mystically, thinks she will locate him by looking up toward the stars. Thwaite’s father is trapped in a mystical realm, reached only by near-drowning.
Nathanson also wrings out a little bit of historical humour as a male astronomer, horrified that Scodelario is using his telescope, cries: “No woman’s ever handled my Herschel!”
The best thing about these films, apart from Depp’s gloriously quasi-camp, pantomime flapping in the lead role, are the villains. Here, they are led by the hulking, almost indecipherable Javier Bardem, his heavy Spanish voice dripping with malevolence.
His character was partly blown to smithereens years before and with the superb special effects and design work we have come to expect from these films, that is how he is realised, his hair perpetually blowing in the impact of an explosion.
Its a sign of ageing times for a Hollywood A-Lister when her movie incarnations start having children, but surely Knightley (age: 32) isn’t old enough to have a strapping, nearly 20yrs, 6ft +er like Thwaites for a son?
Australian Thwaites is more beautiful than Orlando during the full Boom of his youth, but Bloom was more confident in front of the camera. This whipper-snapper has more to learn.
Paul McCartney (yes, Macca) has a brief and amusing cameo as Sparrow’s scouse uncle. Given the fact he injects some real and hearty laughs into the proceedings, I’d suggest Bruckheimer’s next Pirates film should be a comedy, with Macca and Jack working together.
Cast & credits
Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg. 129mins. Walt Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer/Infinitum Nihil. (12a)
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer.
Writer: Jeff Nathanson.
Camera: Paul Cameron.
Music: Geoff Zanelli.
Sets: Nigel Phelps.
Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Paul McCartney.