‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge’ review: An improvement on the horrible ‘On Stranger Tides’, if not as great as the first three movies

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge
Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

If you’ve read this blog for long enough, you probably would have come across me ranting about Johnny Depp’s falling star and declining quality (and often profitability too) of his movies. But I didn’t always dislike Johnny Depp. He used to get me excited about his movies, until On Stranger Tides came out and was so clearly a cash grab in which he just phoned in his oddball schtick and exaggerated his Captain Jack Sparrow mannerisms that I started viewing him with a prejudiced eye. (It didn’t help that I am still SHOCKED to this day that Alice in Wonderland, another movie I dislike immensely, earned a billion, undeserving, dollars.)

Which is a pity, because I loved the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, even though the second and third needed a few rewatches, with English subtitles, before they finally made sense to me. But the fourth movie was really terrible, and the backgrounds looked fake, which is strange because the previous installments never did even though they were made a few years and a few technological advances earlier. The fact that they were on a studio set was much more obvious in On Stranger Tides, as well as the set being mostly made of greenscreen anyway. (The fifth movie also suffers from the fake backgrounds problem.)

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and Penelope Cruz as Anjelica in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and Penelope Cruz as Anjelica in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I can’t recall the exact story of the fourth movie, and I also have zero desire to watch it again, but I remember hating all the new characters, particularly Anjelica (Penélope Cruz), because they tried to insert as much sexual innuendo as possible and play up Jack’s lascivious ways so much that it became overkill. And I disliked Philip (Sam Claflin), because he looked pale and pasty and unattractive. It did not give me a good impression of Sam Claflin — an impression which was only overturned when he was cast as Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The “love story” between him and the mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) was not engaging and I didn’t feel anything for them at all. Blackbeard (Ian McShane) wasn’t a good villain: he was just evil and greedy for evil and greedy’s sake. And I disliked the over-the-top stunts in London, one of which had Jack hanging from a chandelier in Buckingham Palace while dozens of soldiers below are trying to catch him. There was another in which he was standing on two galloping horses that were going different directions. All the stunts just felt like they were trying to outdo themselves for spectacle’s sake, instead of being necessary to the story.

Sam Claflin as Philp and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as Syrena in On Stranger Tides
Sam Claflin as Philp and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as Syrena in On Stranger Tides

*Spoilers ahead for Salazar’s Revenge!*

So did Salazar’s Revenge (formerly known as Dead Men Tell No Tales) feel tired? Well, occasionally it did. Basically it jumps ahead 10, then 20 years after At World’s End, and shows Will and Elizabeth’s son Henry trying to break his father’s curse by looking for the trident of Poseidon which apparently can break curses. He meets Jack Sparrow doing that too, because Jack gave away his magic compass that points to a person’s heart’s desire, which inflicts a curse on him and causes Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his undead crew to go after him for revenge because they’ve been freed from some curse that bound them to some accursed place that they were trapped in by Jack Sparrow when he was younger. They also meet Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who happens to be an astronomer and scientist and can help them decipher clues to Poseidon’s trident while looking for it for some reason of her own. Barbossa and his crew come across Salazar and crew and are tasked to find Jack Sparrow, because Salazar and crew can’t step on land.

It’s been a few months since I watched it. The details are a little hazy.

Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner and Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Salazar's Revenge
Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner and Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Salazar’s Revenge

The story felt cheesy at times, especially the “flirting” between Henry and Carina, the reveal of Barbossa as Carina’s father, and the fight scenes where Jack magically avoids and escapes from all harm. But it had several fun set pieces (the guillotine one, which sped round and round like a rollercoaster on a circular track and nearly beheads Jack several times, was particularly inspired. The entirely fruitless bank robbery was funny at parts. The Black Pearl regrowing into its full size was great too.) Also, Barbossa sacrifices his life, but I don’t understand why there was a need to sacrifice his life. Why couldn’t he have swum back up after the waters covered him? Maybe his leg was too heavy, but he could have detached it?

I didn’t like Javier Bardem’s character. He was another villain that was trying too hard. But he looked really hideous and creepy with his floating hair, so props to the visual effects and makeup department.

Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his undead crew in Salazar's Revenge. *shudders*
Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his undead crew in Salazar’s Revenge. *shudders*

Norrington (re: Jack Davenport, whom I loved in the first three movies) originally had a role in one of the earlier iterations of the script, but eventually they took him out. Pity! Will and Elizabeth reunited for good in this movie; but thing is, I always thought that they did that at the end of the after-credits scene in the third movie. Will fulfilled his 10 years on the Flying Dutchman and could return to land since he didn’t break his promise, unlike Davy Jones (the octopus guy). Apparently, I was mistaken. But even so, since Will fulfilled his duty (of ferrying the dead to the other side), he shouldn’t have started growing barnacles and weird things on his face, and his crew shouldn’t have been disfigured. After all, in the third film, when Davy Jones is killed and the Flying Dutchman was turned over to Will, all Davy Jones’ disfigured crew turned back to normal, human-looking beings and became Will’s crew. And Calypso hinted that Davy Jones only looked tentacle-y because he stopped doing his duty.

I really liked the opening scene though, but that’s mostly because they played possibly my favourite theme in the series, the Will and Elizabeth theme, from At World’s End. (It did appear in Curse of the Black Pearl before, not sure about Dead Man’s Chest, but Hans Zimmer really expanded on it in At World’s End.) They also played it in the last scene when they reunited. Hans Zimmer didn’t score the film — I think he mentioned before he didn’t have any more creative juices to score a fifth Pirates movie and make it sound fresh — but his successor made sure to stay faithful to those themes. The Pirates soundtracks (for the first three movies, and especially At World’s End) are some of my favourite movie soundtracks of all time.

Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Lewis McGowan as young Henry Turner in Salazar's Revenge
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Lewis McGowan as young Henry Turner in Salazar’s Revenge

Speaking of after-credit scenes: Why is Davy Jones back? He was under a curse, but he died because his heart was stabbed. Take away the curse and turn him back to a normal man, and his heart would have remained stabbed, which renders him dead. They also didn’t turn him back to a human being, he remains tentacle-y. So what is that all about?

Also, my beef with the after-credit scenes is that Elizabeth and Will should have been having tons of hot sex after being separated from each other for 10 years, not sleeping. But it is a Disney movie after all.

By the way, who is ferrying the dead to the other side now the Flying Dutchman isn’t doing it anymore?

The film made me want to rewatch the first three Pirates movies again, and so I did. This post is getting long, so I’ll blog about my experience another day!