The fifth episode of the adventures of Jack Sparrow is coming out in theatres this Wednesday, May 24th. A new opus, directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, which brings Johnny Depp back to the forefront of the scene for a return to the roots of the saga. Was that really necessary?

Disney dominates Hollywood more than ever, with the success of countless powerful licenses, from theMarvel productions, shooting at the rate of three films per year, to the Star Warssaga, whose episode VIII and a second spin-off are expected, and the remakes of cult cartoons, such as Beauty and the Beast.

Among the studio’s major brands, it is this time Pirates of the Caribbean that makes its big comeback. Inspired by a Disneyland attraction, the saga initiated by producer Jerry Bruckheimer began in 2003, when the pirate film genre was no longer a promising one. A risk that director Gore Verbinski will take to his body to finally offer a first feature film, The Curse of Black Pearl, particularly refreshing. A colossal success that sets in motion two sequels, prolonging the adventures of Jack Sparow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) andElizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) to bring them to a conclusion far from the classic happy ending.

After a fourth episode which tried to renew the universe, but disappointed the public and investors, the producers hesitated to launch a fifth opus. It will be necessary to wait until 2013 to officialize the project Dead Men Tell No Tales (La Vengeance de Salazar in VF), expected for this Wednesday, May 24th. This new opus returns to a formula close to the first episode, using the plot of the first trilogy to relaunch the machine.

But did we really need a new episode? Atwhen the pirates have given way to other licenses – such as the Guardians of Galaxy – what is the point of bringing back Sparow and his gang? We’re still wondering about that.

No, Jack, nothing’s changed

The Revenge of Salazar tells the story ofHenry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner, on his journey to find his father, cursed and condemned never to be able to leave the Flying Dutchman. To free him from this curse, the young man will have to find Poseidon’s Trident, a magical object giving total power over the oceans. In his quest, he will come across a somewhat rusty Jack Sparaow, who is still a bit of a ham, and a young woman accused of witchcraft, Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who is also in search of the powerful artifact. All these beautiful people will cross the road of Salazar (Javier Bardem), a former captain of the Spanish army that Jack left between life and death in an evil cave, now eaten away by his thirst for revenge.

From the very first minutes of the film, the universe seems most familiar. After an introduction highlighting the link between Will Turner and his son, as well as a brief reminder of the character’s situation after the end of To the End of the World, the feature plunges headfirst into the action, thanks to a kind of remake of the Fast & Furious 5.… robbery with pirates. The stage does its job quite honestly, with a nice sense of rhythm and a succession of small but delightful staging ideas. Nevertheless, the cross chase of the different protagonists within this scene seems rather artificial, and slightly blocks the involvement of the spectator. The problem with this Revenge of Salazaris that this feeling of artificiality persists throughout the film.

Dead men tell no tales

After a trilogy directed by Gore Verbinski and a fourth opus directed by Rob Marshall, this fifth part of Sparow’s adventures has been entrusted to the Norwegian duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, known notably for Bandidas. The directors deliver a clean work, quite dynamic and distilling some rather successful directing ideas. From a shot confusing earth and sky, through some very good gags – such as the guillotine scene – to the use of designs by Salazar and his crew, one can feel the duo interested in certain aspects of their subject and applied in their production. However, doing it well is not enough, and the limitations of a script and a project validated in a hurry are really felt.

First of all, there is a clear problem of rhythm.While the film tries to be sustained from the outset in terms of adventures, it has great difficulty playing endurance, with a second half of the film proving to be soft, poorly structured and weighing a certain weight on the eyelids, so much so that it takes its foot off the pedal in terms of characterization of its characters.

Characters interpreted with communicative energy, with two young newcomers proving to be most interesting and involved, a Javier Bardem at the top of his form and a cast of regulars carried by a Johnny Depp who does the job well. But the game not doing everything, the writing is too light in terms of stakes and the frantic introduction of these protagonists lets the souffléfall down, to arrive at a conclusion sewn with white thread, even trying to press on the string of a big revelation. Again, highly artificial and predictable.

A late boat

Technically, this Pirates of the Caribbean remains of good quality in terms of special effects, even if the status of the saga has changed somewhat since 2003. While the first episodes brought ambitious staging challenges and served as showcases for the special effects company ILM, this fifth opus lowered the level, despite a budget of nearly $132 million. Right from the first scene, a green background of the most conspicuous does not reassure us about the rest. The rest of the feature will be jagged, with some relatively clean effects, when most of it is accompanied by blurring and some sloppy passages.

The effects added to Salazar and his crew are the strong point of the film, even if they are not irreproachable, while the rejuvenation of Johnny Depp, visible in the trailer, is less impressive than the already limited rejuvenation of Robert Downey Jr. in Civil War.

As the film comes to an end, and the audience waits for a post-generic scene that underlines the lack of interest in the feature film, a question arises: Why? Why this Pirates of the Caribbean 5, if not to repeat an established formula in the hope that it proves profitable?

While a project to adapt 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas by David Fincher was planned, Disney preferred to cancel this project and launch a new opus of Pirates, in order to ensure success in theatres. Between Jules Verne by Fincher and the fifth opus of a saga inspired by an amusement park, the (commercial) choice is quickly made.

Between Jules Verne by Fincher and the fifth opus of a saga inspired by an amusement park, the (commercial) choice is quickly made.

This sequel certainly does a pretty good job as a Hollywood blockbuster, while bringing back to the forefront actors and characters appreciated by the audience. The show is honest and far from missed, but tells absolutely nothing. Whether in terms of themes, overflights, the journey of its characters or even the place of the story in the saga, this Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is just a production launched in automatic mode, with no soul and no will to bring anything other than an empty adventure with nothing new to tell.

In brief

Pirates of the Caribbean 5

Indicative note : 2/5

In its quest for super-licenses, Disney is trying to relaunch the Pirates of the Caribbean machine by betting on a return on investment. As a result, this fifth feature film of the saga reveals the limits of this approach, completely disconnected from the audience, with an easy and meaningless plot.

The casting is doing rather well, and some scenes or ideas are not to be thrown away, but this is really too little for a saga that, like many others, has become just another commercial pretext.

The entertainment on offer remains clean and rhythmic enough to do its job as a spring blockbuster, but we can expect (much) more. 

Top

  • Entertaining in the beginning
  • Kaya Scodelario & Brenton Thwaites
  • Some beautiful scenes

Bof

  • Annoying and soft, towards the end
  • A scenario without interest
  • Cancel a Fincher for that?