Pirates of the Caribbean

The latest instalment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a two-hour long appeal to the cast, the studio and the world as a whole that the franchise is washed up, according to Christian Tesfaye. 4 out of 10 stars

Sequels did not use to be as copious as they are today. For a long time, studios have tried to capitalise on the popularity of successful movies, and regenerate beloved characters in sequels and spin-offs.

Sometimes this plan has worked out; sometimes it has ended in disaster. Apparently, at least money-wise, sequels have become more and more effective.

It used to be that Hollywood was far more in love with movie stars than franchises. But somewhere along the way, audiences became lazier and younger; they started looking for more of the same, instead of discovering new characters and settings.

There have been great sequels. There is The Godfather two, Aliens, Mad Max two and some others. But more often than not – far more often than not – sequels are very tiring, shallow and unadventurous.

They are afraid of going too far, instead aiming to look as much as possible like their predecessors. What is more damning is the number of repetitions.

More franchises than ever are reaching their fifth and sixth instalments. The Fast and The Furious franchise is in its eighth movie. All of this is very embarrassing for someone in my line of work because movies are becoming more like episodes of a TV show.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has been looking for treasures all his life. First, it was a gold piece from Hernán Cortés’ treasure in Isla de Muerta. Then it was Davy Jones’ heart.

Sparrow was very successful at all of these undertakings, and very funny, even though he was often drunk. The last time we saw the lovable pirate, he was trying to find the fountain of youth, which, sure enough, he did.

Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner have a son, Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites). One stormy night, in the middle of the ocean, he finds his father and promises to break his curse, which can be done with the help of the Trident of Poseidon.

Years pass, and Henry finds himself working aboard a British Navy ship, no closer to the trident.

Unfortunate events make it so that he runs into the mythical villain Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghostly crew. Henry gets to meet his mother’s old fling, Sparrow, who now is broken down, without a crew and in jail. A day before he is to be executed, the two make a pact to find the trident.

Sparrow needs it because of Salazar, who met his fate as a result of the famous captain’s ruse, and is dead set on killing him. Sparrow brings back his old crew, with a promise of yet more riches (they never learn), and gets some help from a “whorologist” because, apparently, the map can only be read by no man (a woman).

Elizabeth and Will only make brief appearances, but other of the franchise’s popular characters show up in full force. Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his monkey Jack, like always, play both sides of the opposing sides to their benefit.

Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) is the loyal second mate to Sparrow if it does not conflict with his fortunes. And Murtogg and Mullroy mumble and jumble their way through life and death situations for the hundredth time.

The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was subtitled Curse of the Black Pearl, and it was a great movie. It was the perfect example of a commercial movie that is entertaining, suave and sophisticated.

It was a movie along the same lines of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Curse of the Black Pearl was never a perfect movie, but one we are willing to forgive because it was mostly so well done.

Gore Verbinski’s direction was visually engrossing, with rhythmic editing and fantastic natural-seeming cinematography, making great use of blue skies, open waters and grimy ships and corridors.

But Verbinski’s greatest achievement was in casting Depp as Sparrow. It is true that Depp has made his name playing bizarre characters, like Edward Scissorhands or Ed Wood, but there is nothing in his career to inform us he would make such a success out of character.

No one else could have played Sparrow better, just as no one else could play Wolverine better than Hugh Jackman.

It is to the credit of Depp that he played Sparrow in his vision – it could have turned out to be silly, just as much as it was funny. And the same goes for Rush’s Barbossa. Ever since though, Depp has been playing only a caricature of Sparrow we found in the first movie.

It turns out that what made Sparrow such a fun character was the dialogue, the brilliant turn of events he found himself in and the interesting plot.

None of this exists in the subsequent Pirates movies, so Sparrow has become a mere reminder that once upon of a time a great movie had been done around this character.

Even Verbinski has never managed to repeat the madcap excitement of the first movie. Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were both pretty, and quite expensive, but entirely too small for the shoes they wanted to fill.

But On Stranger Tides was even worse, an utter embarrassment. Salazar’s Revenge, sometimes also called Dead Men Tell No Tales, which seems to be the better title, falls along the same lines.

It is a two-hour long appeal to the cast, the studio and the world as a whole that the franchise is washed up. If they keep churning out these brainless prattles, we may just forget that the first movie was so pleasurable.

By Christian Tesfaye

Published on Jun 24,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 895]



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