If there ever was a fantastic year in films, it was 2003. Amidst the blitzkrieg of iconic films like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings : Return of the King, Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1 and Disney’s Finding Nemo, and other honorable mentions like Matrix Reloaded and X2: X-Men United, a brand new franchise was being introduced which would give us one of the most memorable characters in movie history!
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl rebranded and transformed Pirates from the do-gooders that we had known them to be, through the stories of Sindbad the sailor from the Arabian Nights and the stories of Jason and the Argonauts from Greek mythology. The common thread among these stories, which were from vastly different cultures, was that their characters were portrayed to be fearless heroes who never flinched away from even the most life-threatening adventures. There were gods and monsters, dames and treasures that often interspersed these magical narratives. Gore Verbinski’s portrayal of Pirates showed them as crass and unclean brutes who didn’t have even a flimsiest semblance of morality in them. They had no ambition, no motive but to brave the seas looking for merchant ships to plunder. Verbinski’s brand of Pirates were a direct nod to Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island which had all the ingredients that POTC was made of. Barbossa was a direct embodiment of a one-legged character named Long John Silver who also has a talking parrot as his mate. In the second film, Dead Man’s Chest we see Gibbs sing the song – “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum…” which had first appeared in Treasure Island itself. This film also had Sparrow contract an inauspicious “Black Mark”. This, again, is a direct reference to Stevenson’s story where any man marked by the “Black Spot” was presumed to be headed towards calamity or even death.
Johnny Depp gave us this whacky, nut-job version of a Pirate who still carried the charisma to convince us to think of him as the Best Pirate Captain there was. Despite his drunken drawl and effeminate mannerisms, Captain Jack Sparrow became the very embodiment of a class-one hipster. As the narrative followed the adventures of this self-proclaimed pirate captain who often didn’t have a ship, was despised by the world including his crew and who had no game with the ladies, we fell more and more for that unfounded swagger which had the solution to every freakin’ problem in the world. It was as if Lebowski, himself, had kept aside his bath-robe for a change and donned a Pirate’s hat!
Unlike the other Pirate films in the franchise, Salazar’s Revenge (aka Dead Men tell no tales) is not directed by Gore Verbinski but by the duo of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg who are directing a film with this enormous production budget for the first time. Despite having some huge shoes to fill, the 5th film in the franchise has made its own mark among its peers and may even be the best yet. Here’s why:
1. No country for old Pirates: When taking the story forward from antagonists such as the Hector Barbossa and Davy Jones, you already have your work cut out for you. From here, the next villainous character has to be someone who is much more fierce than any of his earlier counterparts and even more ruthless as a Pirate Captain. To put it subtly, Javier Bardem’s casting as the Captain Armando Salazar was bang on target ! After Davy Jones’ screen presence, you’d think it was impossible to match his stature but Bardem brings such a dark and visceral quality to Salazar’s character that you realize – “This ! This is what was missing in Davy Jones !” Bardem brings in a potent combination of Ledger’s Joker’s madness and Anton Chigurh’s tenacity giving us the best Pirate villain yet ! Period.
2. Jack Sparrow makes an ENTRANCE: Every famous franchise has its own tradition like the quote – “I have a bad feeling about this” in Star Wars. POTC is no different. If there is one thing that is common in every single one of the films, it’s Jack Sparrow’s entrance. The film-makers probably have this unsaid covenant that no matter what they put into the screenplay, Sparrow’s entrance has to be spectacular ! From arriving to Port Royal on a sinking boat and stepping onto the dock without even looking back, to arriving atop the mast of a giant ship sailing through sand-dunes, Sparrow gave us some of the best entrances…well, until now. The latest entrance of Sparrow doesn’t contain itself to a single moment but draws out into one of the most hilarious joyrides which starts with a banker proclaiming that “this” vault was the most secure vault in the whole world. As he opens the said vault, we see Sparrow spread-eagled inside with a bottle of rum and the wife of that banker. If this sounds exciting, wait till you see what happens next !
3. Race for the ultimate weapon: Throughout the series, we see the characters chasing after magical objects which become the underlying motivation of their tussle but this time, the stake has become infinite. Salazar’s Revenge sees the characters racing against time to capture the Trident of Poseidon, which is basically an object directly related to the God of the Sea, which in turn meant that whoever possessed it would become a God himself. This object raises the fascination to boiling point when the weapon reveals itself through an eye-popping sequence never before seen in any of the previous films, which brings us to the next point.
4. CGI of Biblical proportions: Well, not to sound religious but the Trident of Poseidon sequence (you’ll know what I am talking about when you watch it), literally splits the sea-apart just like the Exodus led by Moses, as our harried characters battle to death to capture the object that would change their destinies. The nerve-wracking sequence grips you to your seats as the crew of the Black Pearl barely manage to escape as the giant walls of the sea close in on them. Besides this, the film contains some of the best CGI that we have seen in this franchise yet. Combined with the amazing cinematography of Paul Cameron who incidentally also worked on HBO’s phenomenal Westworld, the whole visage is elevated to a fluid story-telling experience.
5. Sparrow’s Origin Story, finally: We have always found ourselves invested in Sparrow despite knowing how he became Captain Jack Sparrow. Did he always have his quirks and presence of mind ? Did he always walk like that ? Well, this story gives us a glimpse of a young Sparrow as he taunts and traps Captain Salazar of the Spanish Armada using his signature bootlegging feint, damning him to hell. You get to see a teenage boy take up the mantle of a ship whose captain had just died and completely outwit his enemies with the smoothest of manners. Although we had nowhere near enough of the flashback, this was certainly a welcome change to the conventional storyline.
Also read: How they made Johnny Depp a teen again
So there you have it ! Salazar’s Revenge is a fast-paced, quintessential Jack Sparrow story which carries all of Verbinski’s core elements and builds upon them. It perfectly balances the characteristic humor of the franchise with an adventure-filled roller-coaster, with the backdrop of a premise that hooks you till the end. Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Barbossa (yes, she is his daughter) bring in some great moments together, infusing the plot with some young blood paving the way for a whole new generation of pirates.
We can’t wait for the next film in the franchise and as per rumors, the director duo would continue directing the next installment, possibly bringing us more about Sparrow’s origin. It would be awesome if we get to see a prequel to Captain Jack Sparrow and his adventures as a teenager, even though that would mean Johnny Depp’s departure. Just kidding, savvy?
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