Salazar’s Revenge - or confusingly if you’re in the US, Dead Men Tell No Tales - is the fifth instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean and sets sail some 14 years after The Curse of the Black Pearl first introduced us to Johnny Depp’s salty Captain Jack Sparrow. Relying heavily on its padded-out scenes of swashbuckling adventure without much else between its cauliflower ears, Salazar’s Revenge is specially formatted in its entirety exclusively for IMAX® theatres making it the best way to experience the overused and questionable CGI. Opening with the only humorous high point of the whole saga which includes a very creative bank robbery involving Sparrow and his merry band of hapless pirates and an indestructible safe, the focus of the story, as you would expect, has the world and his wife searching for the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp). Newcomer Brenton Thwaites takes on the role of Henry Turner, the offspring of Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann - an almost a carbon copy of Bloom’s earnest hero - as he wants to track him down to help save his father from the depths of the deep dark sea and the curse that keeps him there. Javier Bardem is on board as the leading villain in this piece as eponymous Captain Salazar and gives a commendable performance as a man who once patrolled the seas with an iron rod, dishing out a perilous punishment to any pirate that dared sail his way. That is until he crossed the path of a young Jack Sparrow – an alarmingly smooth faced Depp playing his younger self - but this is all we are privy to regarding his character. Oh and just for good measure the British Navy have to get in on the act too with David Wenham on board as a shouty officer who gets even less character development than the barnacles on the bottom of the Black Pearl.
Pirates lost its creative spark some time ago; it feels almost as if the introduction of Thwaites and the lacklustre Kaya Scodelario attempting to be the new Elizabeth Swann, are trying to recreate the dynamic that once made the first in the franchise so refreshing but sadly miss the target. Those anxiously awaiting the return of Bloom see him given short shrift with barely a 10 minute appearance while Knightley doesn’t even get dialogue. As for Depp, the lights are on but there’s certainly no one home; the passion he once had for this character, which almost won him an Oscar, has all but drowned, and it’s just another role where he simply is just going through the motions. Add a plot twist which is obvious a mile away and an admittedly touching tribute to the loss of one of the recurring Pirates of the Caribbean crew we’re left with a flimsy storyline which has battle after battle with not much else to fill in the gaps in between.
In keeping with Keith Richards’ brief and knowing appearances in the second and third instalments of the franchise, Salazar’s Revenge sees a jolly cameo from another musical legend in the form of Paul McCartney as Sparrow’s Uncle Jack. It’s short but sweet and giggle-worthy but can’t disguise the sub-par plot - so thin it’s almost transparent - which will have you reaching for the rum. Formulaic and repetitive with a cast that treats this outing as more of a chore than a passion project; it’s a film of two, uncomfortably long, halves.
Seeing this instalment in IMAX is the only way it should be watched, creating an immersive experience that throws the audience headfirst into the action. Entertainment value is just above average but its storyline is depressingly weak willed albeit not the worst in its long history. Despite the closing credits which offers ideas on a potential sixth outing, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge ties things up nicely in order to close its doors on a tired franchise that has long since outlived its welcome.