WARNING: Spoilers ahead for this film and previous Pirates of the Caribbean films
Pirate of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge, or Dead Men Tell No Tales, depending whereabouts in the world you are is the fifth one in the series, carrying on from On Stranger Tides – which I must admit I haven't seen yet, so I probably missed a few plot points from there in this one. To be fair though, these films are mostly self contained (apart from the two parter Dead Man's Chest and At World's End) so I probably didn't miss a huge amount.
So you'll be pleased to hear that Johnny Depp is back again as Captain Jack Sparrow – and he's still just as drunken and confused as ever, robbing banks and getting tanked! And getting things horribly wrong! New cast members include Henry Turner – son of Will Turner – who is trying to find a way to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman, which is how At World's End finished. Also is plucky new heroine Carina Smyth – a female astronomer trying to find her way in a man's world. Oh and to look pretty for Henry Turner! Hey, there's nothing to say you can't be a strong independent woman AND eye candy for the main hero, right? Right?
Ahem, let's just move on...
So the bad guys of this film are the undead ghosts of the Spanish Navy, lead by Armando Salazar. In his life he spent his time hunting pirates, until he met Jack Sparrow, which caused his crew to accidentally fall into a cursed stone and become undead. Undead pirates – yeah because THAT'S never been done before in these films! But in all seriousness, he's seeking revenge on Jack for his curse and seeks to kill him. In order to fight them off, they must find the Trident of Poseidon – which has the power to deux ex machina all curses in the world. So basically, it's a giant reset button. Cue plenty of fights, Jack Sparrow being funny, semi-scary scenes and lots of over the top special effects.
So yeah, this is pretty much the same as EVERY Pirates of the Caribbean film you've ever seen before, not offering much in the way of originality. However, as the old saying goes “If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” and this film is pretty entertaining if you give it a chance. The characters are likable and there is tons of funny moments. Henry and Carina are strong in their own ways, even if they slightly lack the charisma of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (who both have cameos in this film as well), and Jack Sparrow is as funny as ever. You do get the feeling that Johnny Depp is playing it up a bit too much these days, but he's still as entertaining as ever.
Captain Barbossa is also back in the frame – and he actually gets a pretty decent character development in this film. Turns out that Carina is actually his long lost daughter, which he left at an orphanage to make sure she has a better life, yada yada, you know the trope. But this does eventually lead to a pretty good Moment of Awesome (as they say on TVTropes) where he sacrifices himself to save her. I must admit I am a sucker for the whole “sacrificing yourself for your child” thing – and maybe I'm still emotional after the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Oh Yondu... why? But, as cliched as this was, I'll give it a pass.
Two highlights of the film for me where both Salazar and the special effects. Salazar is played by Javier Bardem (who is an awesome actor by the way) and he actually gave a lot to his character. He knew the right moment to raise his voice, speak quietly or get angry. It's hard to explain, but there were just some subtle things he did which made his character sinister.
The special effects were some of the best I've seen in a Pirates, film – especially with Salazar. The ghosts all look burned, have pieces missing or are partially invisible. A lot of attention had been put into making the ghost look – well ghostly – and fair play to the effects team, they did a grand job. Salazar especially had a really cool effect where his hair floated around like it was underwater. It took me a while to notice that, but it was a neat effect that worked well. Actually made me pay attention to Salazar and notice all the little subtleties of Bardem's performance.
And finally, we have the British – because you ALWAYS have to have British as the bad guys in American films, right? I mean, the British are w*nkers, right? Well, SOME of them are to be fair!
But to be honest, the British villains I thought were the weakest in this film. In fact, they didn't really do anything – nor did they really impact the plot that much. They also get killed before they ever get a chance to get going, so you could have easily taken them out of the movie and it wouldn't have affected the plot. Kinda just feels like the writers put them in there for the sake of it. Or to give the British actors something to do. Let's face it, it's not as if British actors don't make up 50% of US TV shows at the moment!
All joking aside, there isn't really much more to say about this film – as if you've seen any Pirates of the Carribean film, you've seen them all. And this film pretty much carries on without adding anything new. It's a one trick pony, but it's a trick that it does very well. Good characters, a passable story, lots of humour and some awesome special effects make this film watchable. So if you don't mind more of the same, you'd enjoy this one.
Oh and it also has a cameo from Sir Paul McCartney as Uncle Jack! That was a nice touch and carries on with the “aging rocker” theme of Jack Sparrow.
All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge/Dead Men Tell No Tales is a decent swashbuckler that you don't have to take too seriously. So I'll give it 3.5 out of 5.