Directed by Norwegian duo Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg from a script by Jeff Nathanson, Dead Men Tell No Tales (also known as Salazar’s Revenge) serves as a “soft reboot” of 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl, with the first movie providing inspiration for the tone and script of the new film.
The plot sees a down-on-his-luck Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) being pursued by old nemesis Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who along with his Spanish Navy ghost crew have escaped from the so-called Devil’s Triangle and are seeking to kill every pirate at sea.
Captain Jack’s only hope of survival lies in finding the legendary Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artefact that grants its possessor total control over the seas. But to locate it, he must forge an alliance with the brilliant horologist Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), and headstrong young sailor Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites).
There are several other plot strands involving the central characters, with proto-feminist Carina looking to shut down accusations of witchcraft brought on by her knowledge of astronomy, while Henry hopes to break a curse which keeps him apart from his father Will Turner (Orlando Bloom).
Though the various narrative threads seem a little overcomplicated at times, there are some successful moments which hark back to the originality of the first instalment, including an early scene showing Captain Jack up to his old tricks by getting his crew to drag an entire bank building through a colonial town.
The majority of special effects are well executed, with swelling tides and ghostly ships nicely rendered, and the terrifying ghouls which occupy Salazar’s supernatural ship proving to be a standout. Yet, a scene which explores Sparrow’s back story and uses CGI to de-age Depp was less convincing, with the young sailor appearing rather robotic.
Similarly, Depp’s performance lacked the enthusiasm and flair which landed him an Oscar nomination for The Curse of the Black Pearl. The directors have wisely made Sparrow a supporting character here, but even still he seems like he’s playing a parody of an earlier character, with his drunken dialogue and verbal gags proving rather old hat.
Meanwhile, Thwaites and Scodelario do their best with the script, but any romantic gestures are well overshadowed by their own issues with paternal abandonment. As expected, Bardem steals the show with the same depth and darkness he imbued in his Bond villain, with his scarred face and bulky frame, and Geoffrey Rush holds the third act together as the one-legged Captain Barbossa.
In spite of mixed performances, Dead Men Tell No Tales does a nice job of tying up the loose ends from earlier instalments, and has some entertaining moments which fans will enjoy – though most will agree that it’s time the franchise is concluded once and for all.
Rating: 12a Duration: 129 mins
Cinema Showings in Cumbria:
Brewery Arts, Kendal 14:00 17:00 20:00
Zeffirellis, Ambleside: 14:30 17:15 20:00
Royalty Cinema, Bowness: 14:00 17:00 20:00
Plaza, Workington: 11:30 13:30 14:30 17:30 20:30 16:30 (3D)
Lonsdale Alhambra, Penrith: 14:20 17:15 20:10 12:30 (3D)
Vue, Carlisle: 12:10 13:10 14:10 15:20 17:05 19:05 20:00 21:10 22:00
Vue, Barrow-in-Furness: 13:50 15:25 16:40 18:40 20:00 20:45 (3D) 21:40