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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales AKA Salazar's Revenge

For those who don't know, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are based on Disneyland's theme ride of the same name, one of the oldest and longest lasting attractions in the original park, and subsequently incorporated in each Disneyland park in the world. Obviously, after the success of the first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, the ride became even more famous and included characters from the movies too. The first three movies were directed by Gore Verbinski, made famous until then by his horror remake The Ring. He didn't return for the fourth and this, the fifth installment in the series, but not because his overarching two sequels didn't do as well, but because he started working alongside Johnny Depp on Nikelodeon's Rango, for which he received a directorial Oscar, while producer Jerry Bruckheimer went around saying the Pirates series was a trilogy and was over. As we all now know, it is not over.

I have to say that I barely remember the previous four movies, only broad plot elements and great villains, well, at least Barbossa and Davy Jones. No matter how much I enjoy watching Ian McShane (American Gods), his Blackbeard wasn't exceptionally memorable, but neither was the entirety of On Stranger Tides, the fourth movie. I also don't know if it's fair to talk about this movie disregarding them, because it tries hard to tie loose knots between them. I do remember they at least had a "larger than life" approach, a grand adventure, going from place to place, visiting interesting and visually striking locations. unfortunately, I have to start my review of Dead Men Tell No Tales, or Salazar's Revenge (because the original title was stupid, perhaps?), with a criticism of something I was really disappointed about: the locations were just bland and uninspired. There is one great set of a Caribbean town, and you can tell it's largely made of real bricks and mortar, not just CGI, but other than that it's just lots of sea and rocks and a boring island. There's one cool location at the end of the movie, but once it got there I was already burnt out by boring dialogue and convenient mumbo-jumbo.

The movie is a bit too long and there are clearly scenes that could've been cut out from the movie altogether. For example, there's a pointless and unfunny Paul McCartney cameo as Jack Sparrow's uncle or something and it ads nothing to the movie but runtime. There are lines of dialogue explaining the same things over and over again about the map in the stars that no one can read, for some reason, and it's really simple, it's not even that convoluted, it's just a "go where the constellation points" and that's all there is to it. Those could've been trimmed a bit. There's a dialogue between Barbossa and Jack pointing out the obvious when it could've been left subtle. There's at least one long and boring dialogue between Henry and Carina talking about their pasts or something, I don't even remember, it was all done so they'd have some chemistry, but they're just two young pretty faces to appeal to the youngsters. Oh, right, Henry Turner is the son of Orlando Bloom's and Keira Knightley's characters from the previous movies (they also appear briefly in this one, but they're just not as young and hip with the kids anymore), while Carina Smyth is a walking convenience. She's has vaguely vast knowledge in astronomy and horology, and yes they make fun of it throughout the movie, and she's branded as a witch because of it, which I guess it would make sense back in those days.
What it doesn't make sense is Disney, specialists in marketing and selling toys, not pushing for a bit of atypicality. Come on, give the kid a scar or two, cut him a limb, maybe that could play out in the plot somehow, he's supposed to be a British navy soldier, for goodness sake! As for the girl, she has character, she's supposed to be a strong female type, I think she had a better on-screen presence overall, if only her role wouldn't have been so forced. Actress Kaya Scodelario, who plays Carina, is most notably known for young adult movie Maze Runner, but she has promise and shows talent even when the direction sucks. Brenton Thwaites, who portrays Henry, is a young actor whom I recognized from the awful Gods of Egypt, in which he plays basically the same character. I don't know why he's cast in these big budget movies, maybe he's cheap, maybe he's popular with the young'uns, and maybe he'd be great under really talented and passionate reins, but since this movie is directed by two Norwegian guys who can't make a movie without one another, actors have to do their own thing. And, like most young actors, Brenton Thwaites doesn't have the inspiration to be someone other than him. 
Javier Bardem is great, as always, I wouldn't have expected anything less, he's a memorable villain, not terrifying as Davy Jones and not as charismatic as Barbossa, but has great presence on screen, gives the performance of a very driven and vengeful maniac. He plays Capitan Armando Salazar, a cursed Spanish Navy officer who's hell bent on hunting every pirate he comes across. His story is tied to Jack Sparrow, like everyone else's in this crazy world they're in, but this time the writers wanted to give Jack's compass a bigger importance than "shows what your heart desires" and made it, for no reason whatsoever, the bane of Salazar's curse. Why and how? Well, in ye olde times, when Jack Sparrow was but a young computer generated lad on the board of his privateer vessel when his captain dies while handsome, alive Salazar was destroying a bunch of pirate ships trying to ambush him. The captain gives Jack the compass which shows his the entrance to the Devil's Triangle. Yes, the Devil's Triangle has an entrance and it's the shape of a triangle carved in a cliff, just large enough to pass a frigate. Jack tricks Salazar with an old fisherman's trick and Salazar can't do anything but accept his doom while watching CGI Jack Sparrow twirling his compass in the air. There are several problems with this part of the story. There was no telling if beyond the entrance would be doom or certain escape, Jack's escape hinged on one small crag to tie a rope to and swing the ship around, hinged on Salazar being as arrogant and stupid as to follow Sparrow into unknown territory instead of positioning his ship to fire a volley easily into Jacks ship, why the compass showed Jack the entrance to the Devil's Triangle, why jack decided not to follow the compass and turn around, why there was certain doom beyond the cliffs, in what way the compass was tied to the Devil's Triangle, and why the filmmakers decided to pay a ton of money to make a CGI young Johnny Depp. Also, after Salazar's Ship, the Silent Mary, blows up and turns all of his crew into ghostly ghouls, they all move around normally, even when they're missing most of their body, but Salazar uses his sword as a crutch. I mean, sure, it looks cool, but it doesn't make much sense, especially when he jumps and runs like a funky athlete. Well, there are a lot of inconsistencies in this movie, everything is a convenient artifact, leading to another convenience.
The special effects are amazing. I really like how they created Salazar and his ghostly crew. There are some visible CGI uses, like young Johnny Depp, really distracting for me, would've been much more fun to just use another actor, like Frank Dillane from Fear the Walking Dead, he is the spitting image of a young Johnny Depp, and he's very talented too. There are some crazy looking sharks at one point, great action scene, maybe the only noticeable 3D part. That was nice. The Silent Mary is an impressive monster on its own. I mentioned the final location, it's certainly different, although it doesn't make sense on various layers, but the whole premise of this series is based around not making any sense. They do make the best of computer graphics special effects.
Johnny Depp returns as the same old Jack Sparrow, he does a good job, just as you expect, Geoffrey Rush reprises his Barbossa role and gives a very convincing performance, since his character is the most clever character in the movie.
It has both good and bad aspects. It's colorful, fun and cliche enough to attract any adventure fan, from kids to elders, and funny enough to draw a few chuckles from the most disgruntled moviegoers. At the same time, the writing is poor, the direction is boring, and the action takes a bit of a backseat to characters treating the viewers like children and explaining every little aspect and twist. The movie also tried to maintain a consistent upbeat tone, but it fell flat on more than one occasion, like than one time when a certain character is killed off in a very dramatic fashion and a scene later the monkey pays respect mimicking the humans, and it's supposed to be funny, or heartfelt dialogues followed by shark-jumping action scenes, literal shark-jumping. To that extent, I wish they would've stuck with the over the top adventure and less drama. The music, that classic and unforgettable Pirates theme makes a grand comeback and it's played more than once, it's played exactly at the right moments and it really intensifies the scenes to epic scales.
Overall, I had a lot of fun, I only wish the story had a bit more pulp, the young characters a bit original, and a few more beautiful locations. And, sure, they left the story open after the credits with maybe a return of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knighley and someone else, and it's not a matter of "if this movie is successful," because I bet it'll be, but I at least hope the sequels would take a bit more risks.
I've had the great pleasure to watch this movie at Inspire Cinema - Cinema 3D Craiova, to which I'm thankful for this amazing invitation.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found some useful information and please leave a comment to let me know what you think!
Photo credits: pirates.disney.com