The original 2003 Pirates of the Caribbean set a standard its sequels have failed to match, and I won't be alone in saying that after Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides my interest in this once thrilling and fun franchise had truly waned.
It's somewhat unexpected then that the fifth movie is reminiscent of the original, so if you've not quite been able to let go of Captain Jack Sparrow you'll be pleased to know it's been worth holding on.
Directing newcomers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki) keep it simple, which hasn't always been the case, and we're all better off for the easy-to-follow narrative and action.
The characters are those we know and love, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) and Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and their respective crews. There's a splash of new characters to keep us interested; adding a touch of romance or villainy, they also serve to reveal more of Captain Jack Sparrow's back story.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
When we reacquaint ourselves with Jack - in one of the film's most fun and over-the-top action sequences - he's at rock bottom. Crew-less and broke, Jack's situation declines further when he learns one of his greatest foes, the evil Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) is coming for him.
To survive Jack needs to find the legendary Trident of Poseidon. The bumbling pirate is given a chance when he teams up with two bright young things, a disgraced navy sailor Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), and brilliant astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario).
The familiarity is probably unavoidable. The relationship between Henry and Carina is reminiscent of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, a plot involving a race for treasure is almost a genre mandatory, and even the film being too long should be no surprise.
But it's hard not to get on board this swashbuckling romp - particularly with Johnny Depp in fine form. As ever, it's largely the visual effects which drive the action, but what's most impressive is that Ronning and Sandberg make us care again. Just enough to go round one more time.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush
Director: Joachim Ronning
Rating: M (Supernatural themes and violence)
Running time: 129 mins
Verdict: A familiar pirates' yarn, but a return to form for the franchise.