Disney 129 Minutes PG-13 Reviewed May 26, 2017
Johnny Depp sashays his way once again as Captain Jack Sparrow in this effects heavy $270 million budget popcorn muncher. It’s clear this movie attempts to re-capture the excitement of the 2003 original film and re-ignite the brand. The blockbuster season is off to a pretty good, but not entirely great start with the 5th Pirates of the Caribbean installment.
Magic and mythology rule the script as Captain Sparrow has to defeat zombie sharks, Captain Salazar’s (Javier Bardem) crew of dead pirates, old foe Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the British navy to retrieve Poseiden’s Trident and reverse a multitude of curses.
This movie is so big Disney hired a tandem to direct. Norwegians Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have said they love the huge scale of American movies and wanted to use big images to fill the theater. So in addition to the grand computer effects they also built immense sets and used over 700 extras to keep the audience visually stimulated when the plot gets thin and repetitive. There are remarkable shots of the movement of the great ships, especially the one resurrected from the deep.
Young love must also be served and young sailor Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and smart, strong and resourceful astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) fill the bill. Thwaites is in great shape. He’s a surfer and did his own stunts. The originators of these roles were Henry Turner’s father Will (Orlando Bloom and Elisabeth Swam (Keira Knightly) who turn up briefly as well.
If there’s not much that sounds very original or strays far from the original recipe for the franchise you’re absolutely right. There is one nice surprise in the cameo turned in by almost unrecognizable, Paul McCartney, playing an imprisoned pirate known as Uncle Jack, slated for death, too. Loved his line, “If they disembowel you, ask for Victor!”
The directors along with writer Jeff Nathanson make it clear from the opening frames that humor is the prime directive. This is what set the Pirates franchise and Johnny Depp apart from the beginning. Sparrow’s irreverent attitude is more innocence than irreverence. Depp says he models the character on Keith Richards and the cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew. He says whatever comes to mind and gets away with things we’d all love to be able to do. Depp also says that his Sparrow obviously grew up on a ship and any time he’s on land, he’s a little unsteady, like he’s tipsy. Sparrow is a totally free, unpredictable character with little consequence to what he does yet likes that there’s a sense of honor in Jack as well.
Javier Bardem’s villain is as menacing as they come down to the black, oozing spittle and the eerie special effect of his hair (and that of his crew’s) moving in slow motion around the parts of his skull that are missing. Geoffrey Rush’s Hector Barbossa is given much more of an emotional arc that may even wring a tear out of the audience. Depp calls Rush a virtuoso.
There are some signature action sequences that are marvels of staging more than anything else. A bank vault being dragged through the streets with Captain Sparrow teetering on top is a well choreographed chase. The other finds Sparrow about to be guillotined. Stunt Coordinator, Thomas Robinson Harper, says he knows what Depp can do, but that Depp is very creative and always takes it a step further. How he escapes the blade is a noteworthy cinematic dance that reminds us that Pirates of the Caribbean was a Disney Amusement Park ride before it became a movie.
If you think this is the end of the line for this crew stick around for the post-credit clip. That’s where you’ll see hints there could be yet another voyage for Captain Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl. Just like the park, it’s a fun ride, if not the best of the series. But unlike the park, maybe this ride is a bit too long. Will Jack be back? The Captain may set sail again, but only if enough doubloons pour into Disney’s treasure chest.