Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge (3 stars)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge

The fifth film in Disney's seafaring franchise marks a partial return to form

It says a lot that a wanted poster in Salazar's Revenge slashes the bounty on Captain Jack Sparrow to a single pound. Have too many raids on the dress-up box (plus off-screen scandals) dented Johnny Depp's appeal that much? Perhaps, though at least Pirates 5 has a good stab at resurrecting his flagging franchise.

The shortest Pirates at 129-minutes, Salazar's Revenge (known in the US as Dead Men Tell No Tales) doesn't reinvent the formula, merely refreshes it. Right off the bat, first-time series directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki) practically bust a gut to entertain. The Pirates-patented opening chase duly arrives, only this entry adds a massacre, a heist, infidelity, demolitions and multiple daring getaways before Jack and friends begin the mission to obtain some magical whatnot (the trident of Poseidon, for what it's worth).

As Depp crumples his face back into Jack's rummy wince of camp disgust without excess strain, newbies include Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario – the former a hunky blank but the latter winning enough as an astronomer and horologist (cue doltish misunderstandings from Sparrow's crew). Though underwritten, their nemesis is leant bullish vigour by Javier Bardem, whose ghoulish Captain Salazar complements his screen rotters résumé, from his horror-show hair to his stormy glower.

With Geoffrey Rush, Paul McCartney, zombie sharks, a de-aged Sparrow, a wild wedding and sea walls of spectacle factored in, the film gets crowded long before the finale's big reveals. Little wonder the plot wobbles like Sparrow negotiating a crumbling rooftop, but its transparent purpose helps keep the footing fleet. As nods to the first Pirates film sail in, the aim to recapture that film's lost levity is blatantly stated. Restoring Depp's reputation is a taller ask, but Salazar's Revenge at least lifts the curse of sequel bloat a little on its merrily choppy way.

General release from Fri 26 May.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 2h 9min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom
  • UK release: 26 May 2017

Captain Jack (Depp) and friends are on a mission to obtain the trident of Poseidon before ghoulish Captain Salazar (Bardem) can get his hands on it. A partial return to form for the franchise, with Bardem vigorous as Jack’s nemesis and a winning performance from Scodelario as an astronomer. It’s all too crowded but it…