Dead men tell tantalizing tales in fun and feisty ‘Pirates’ romp

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Geoffrey Rush (left) and Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge”

We didn’t expect to like “Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge,” the fifth instalment of the popular adventure series that helped solidify Johnny Depp’s box-office clout and cachet in the past decade or so. But, Hollywood franchises have a way of “reinventing” themselves in the face of repetition and predictable contrivances.

In “Pirates’” previous incarnations, however, we felt like we were onboard listless pirate ships that were navigating murky waters, with the series fielding distended but increasingly soporific variations on pretty much the same theme and formula—like the overblown and unimaginatively derivative superhero movies we’ve been seeing lately (sorry, Baby Groot!).

Fortunately, there’s more to the production’s feel-good froth than meets the eye. It’s a fun and feisty romp that makes clever use of directors Joaquim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s storytelling savvy, and allows viewers to see Depp basking in the glow of his triumphant return to comedic form—with the appropriately creepy Javier Bardem (as the spiteful ghost of Jack’s former nemesis, Captain Armando Salazar) in tow.

This time, there’s neither a Dead Man’s Chest nor the Fountain of Youth to fight over. But following Salazar’s escape from the Devil’s Triangle, Jack must get hold of the Trident of Poseidon, a mystical artefact that allows its owner to control the Seven Seas, before the vengeful Salazar gets to it and executes his plan to rid the world of pirates, for good—including Jack!

But, the film isn’t just about Jack’s skirmishes with Captains Salazar and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush); it also follows his misadventures with Henry (Brenton Thwaites), the grownup son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), the orphaned astrologer-cum-horologist who knows where to find the Trident.

The action scenes are quickly paced and innovatively staged, while the production’s inventively realized special effects help viewers suspend disbelief that Jack and company truly exist in a magical parallel reality.

Giving the tale an intimate, even nostalgic bent are the backstories that fuel Henry and Carina’s stubbornness and relentless dedication to accomplish their respective missions—a narrative device that allows the franchise to “revisit” some familiar faces (no spoilers here but, yes, you’ll be pleased to see them) and paves the way for the appearance of Paul McCartney in a crowd-pleasing cameo. What’s not to like?

Brenton Thwaites

Brenton Thwaites

Javier Bardem plays a spiteful ghost.

Javier Bardem plays a spiteful ghost.

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