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Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, is far from the swashbuckling revival it could have been

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s
Revenge (12A)
Running time 2hr 9mins
Rating: **

IT’S been six years since the notorious Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) last sailed and few, frankly, were actually missing the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Indeed, as the series sank into progressively blander waters (can you tell your Dead Man’s Chest from your On Stranger Tides?), only Depp’s charisma appeared to hold it aloft.

Sparrow, exasperating and preposterous as he can be, is a hero cut from classic Boys’ Own cloth, there to ensure a few hearty laughs in the absence of creative thrills and fresh storytelling.

Salazar’s Revenge (also known as Dead Men Tell No Tales, for North American landlubbers) is a reboot, albeit one that does staggeringly little in the way of actually, y’know, REBOOTING the series.

Disney having relieved itself of Gore Verbinski, directorial duties have fallen upon the shoulders of a Norwegian duo, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (aka two of the minds behind Netflix’s highly-flawed, moderately watchable Marco Polo – not a bad set of hands, as far as a new Pirates movie goes); strikingly little, however, seems to have changed for the better, and much has taken a turn for the worse.

Jack Sparrow is, sadly, no longer the guilty pleasure he once was, more a ‘mildly irritating windbag’ than the ‘humorous windbag’ we’d all come to begrudgingly love.

Depp’s personal and professional failings of late may have gone a long way in souring us to the good captain’s charm, but that’s hardly the all of it – whether he’s stumbling around blind-drunk, dodging execution for the umpteenth time or cracking gags about horology (Google it), this feels suspiciously like an act done to death.

It’s little wonder Orlando Bloom, Depp’s former co-star, has all but turned his back on the franchise, sporting a mere cameo here – despite its shoehorning-in a backstory for Sparrow, Salazar’s Revenge is a film in search of a purpose, sticking squarely to the old crew (Joshamee Gibbs, Geoffrey Rush and Martin Klebba all reprise their roles) and to a script of the most unimaginative order where it should’ve charted new waters.

The plot essentially blenderizes the least interesting elements of the last four movies. Javier Bardem is Salazar, the movie’s undead Mr Bad; CG conjures him gloriously to life, all scars and writhing black tentacle-hair, but his menace is blunted by a clumsy, predictable screenplay.

Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario are the inevitable Bloom/Knightley stand-in, and one would be forgiven for confusing them with their predecessors.

Scodelario, admittedly, is initially granted space to strike out on her own (she plays a plucky scientist, accused of witchcraft by her ignorant peers), but is swiftly sidelined in the face of Depp’s antics, spending much of the film tied to the masts of various galleys.

There are nice touches along the way, but they only serve as a painful reminder of the swashbuckling revival this might have otherwise been.

The first act features a bank robbery-gone-skew-whiff that’s easily among the series’ most inspired set pieces, but the same flair is nowhere in sight by the time we’re at sea, the film getting quickly bogged down in a succession of tedious nautical skirmishes.

Paul McCartney makes a delightful cameo, but such fare is hardly worth the price of a ticket – his many talents are being sorely wasted here.

Salazar’s Revenge carries nothing but ill omens for this carcass of a franchise; if this is the absolute best Disney has to offer from hereon in, then let’s all hope this is the last we’ll see of Captain Jack Sparrow.

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