The incredible success of Pirates Of The Caribbean is an endorsement of the old “Disney magic”. It’s hard to imagine anyone else turning a theme park ride into a film franchise that’s grossed over $3.7 billion. This fifth instalment feels rather tardy, arriving six years after Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but otherwise it’s very much business as usual.
As ever, a knotty plot revolves around Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. This time, he’s pursued by old seafaring rival Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who wants revenge for the time Sparrow turned him into a sort of water-bound zombie. To thwart Salazar, Sparrow sails off in pursuit of the Trident of Poseidon, a mythical artefact that grants whoever holds it control over the oceans. Along the way, he picks up Carina Smyth (Skins’ Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer wrongly accused of witchcraft, and Henry Turner (Home And Away’s Brenton Thwaites), a fresh-faced sailor who believes the Trident can free his father Will (Orlando Bloom) from a ghost ship.
Directed by Norwegian duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (who previously made the Oscar-nominated 2012 film Kon-Tiki), Salazar’s Revenge packs a lot into its 129 minutes. The spectacular underwater finale is one of several slick action sequences, but there’s also a schmaltzy subplot involving Sparrow’s frenemy Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and lots of surprisingly adult humour. One running joke pivots on the word “horologist” which sounds like a crude term for “prostitute”.
The film features a cameo from Paul McCartney, who gamely delivers a few jokes as Sparrow’s banged-up uncle. Bardem’s villain is suffocated by excessive CGI, but Rush’s Barbossa remains entertaining and Scodelario energises a progressive character who’s no bland Disney princess, and even the most bloated moments are anchored by Depp’s winningly shifty Sparrow. At times, Salazar’s Revenge is a jarring mix of salty humour and treacle-sweet sentiment. But thanks to the old Disney magic, it somehow comes together in the end.