After grossing $3.7 billion worldwide over the cinematic voyage of four previous films that came about simply because of a Disneyland ride, you can probably assume the fifth installment of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise might just want to coast along and not shake up the formula for success. And as I say in my video review above, while Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer are following that mantra, they surprisingly have still come up with what I think is the most entertaining installment — easily — since the first one sailed our way in 2003, even winning Johnny Depp’s immortal characterization of Captain Jack Sparrow a SAG Award and an Oscar nomination.
The smart thing this time around has been to hire Norwegian directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, the pair responsible for the terrific 2012 Foreign Language Oscar nominee Kon-Tiki. Doing that film certainly gave them experience working on water, and they have put that to good use here, creating a rollicking good time with the help of an amusing script from Jeff Nathanson and a first-rate cast of old faithfuls and new additions, most notably Javier Bardem’s deliciously evil turn as Captain Salazar, the so-called “butcher of the sea” and leader of a group of ghostly sailors out to kill every pirate in sight — particularly Captain Jack.
In this edition, Depp’s Jack is in trouble navigating the pathetic Dying Gull and desperately in search of the Trident of Poseidon which can turn things around by reversing any curse out there and saving him from a fate he does not desire. To do this he eventually forms an uneasy alliance with attractive astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) and a young sailor named Henry (Brenton Thwaites), who happens to be the grown-up son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (who were played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley). With these newbies you can see the future of the franchise if Disney and Bruckheimer want to go full-on rebooty next time around (if there is a next time). But rest assured one of the franchise’s most popular citizens is indeed back, thankfully, as he has been in every edition in one way or another. That would be Geoffrey Rush’s wonderfully amusing Captain Hector Barbossa, who is swimming in his own pirates’ booty as he navigates the Queen Anne’s Revenge along with the ever-present Jack The Monkey by his side. He comes into the picture when he gets wind of Sparrow’s search for the Trident Of Poseidon, and is a key part of a wild climatic action scene as well.
What makes this all work is that the spirit of this outing hits a lot of right notes and seems energized by the idea that CGI, as impressive as it is done here, shouldn’t overwhelm the comic gold buried in these thar characters — and that includes Depp, who is back in his comfort zone, eyeliner and every tick in the book included. The special effects work on the not-all-there Salazar and his crew of missing body parts is top-of-the-line stuff, certainly headed for a Visual Effects Oscar nomination. That Bardem manages to make a fully dimensional villain out of this is impressive indeed, but would you expect less? It is all fun stuff for those who want to take the ride with Depp and company one more time.
Disney releases this summer escapism Friday and can start counting its gold doubloons right away. Do you plan to see it? Let us know what you think.