‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge’: Misadventure on the high seas (Review)

Film: “Pirates of the Caribbean – Salazar’s Revenge”; Directors: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg; Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush; Rating: **

Welcome back. You would like to say to the whimsically tipsy Jack Sparrow. But the fifth instalment of “The Pirates Of Caribbean” is abysmally short of breath. Huffing and puffing through a glorious alcove of gargantuan gags, none very amusing or inspiring, you crave for the pleasures of watching uncluttered humane stories about Man, Woman and Crisis.

This is a misbegotten franchise, a misadventure on the high seas of epic proportions.

The fifth instalment lays it on thick. The narrative provides no reprieve from the forced farcical sense of fury unleashed. The protagonist, a pirate on a rampage on the high seas, remains true to his character: A sodden anti-hero brutishly vile and unlikeable. We first see Sparrow (Depp) locked in a bank vault with a woman. The stunt that follows culminates in him tied down to a guillotine alongside a young woman accused of witchcraft.

The atmosphere is eclectic rather than electric. The thrills cry for a view of the valour that medieval heroism once promised. Alas, this tawdry film invents the most absurd pretexts for Depp to remain drunken and damaged beyond repair.

One of the pleasures of watching this oceanic catastrophe in Hindi is to hear Arshad Warsi give voice to Jack Sparrow, the whimsical pirate with drinking issues who slurs his way through some of the most politically incorrect remarks ever made by mankind. One of the gags is to call the film’s young spirited heroine, a working woman named Karina Smith (Kaya Scodelario), a “dhande wali”, which could mean a prostitute.

That’s right. You got it. This film revels in iconoclastic humour, none of it exceedingly humorous. A torpidity paralyses the film’s epic design, rendering the amplified sequences of high-sea adventure into bouts of burlesque which leave us cold and unmoved.

It’s sad to see the formidable Javier Bardem reduced here to a ghost of his imposing self — literally. Bardem plays a dead villain. He and his pirate army of dead spirits are shot in a wave of stylish special effects suggesting a profound link between morality and enigma. But the representation of dead villainy barely moves beyond the sketchy and satirical.

The film is tiresomely bloated in plot. There are two young people seeking a resting ground for their unfulfilled relationship with their parents. Not one moment captures any genuine emotion. It is all like watching reflections of towering architecture in shimmering water. Nothing is tangible or real enough to be celebrated as a franchise-come-of-age. This one makes you wish the dead would remain that way. Afterlife can be awfully painful and pretentious.

By Subhash K. Jha

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