Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Posted by sean On May - 23 - 2011

Jack Sparrow returns in a new adventure as he sails the seas and treks through jungles in search of the franchise's lost sense of fun.

 

Disney takes another dip into one of their properties with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which sees the return of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he chases after the Fountain of Youth, and while it’s nice to see the charismatic trickster from the previous trilogy, he barely keeps this latest installment afloat with the burden of a convoluted plot bound together with mediocre action.

 

Disney sought to scale back on the fourth entry, slashing the budget while trying to get back to the core of what made, at least the first film, a fun, daring adventure.  An understandable approach if they didn’t want to foot the money to top the climatic whirlpool of At World’s End, but the attempt to return the series to its so-called roots leaves the movie seeming like its missing more than an abundance of CGI shots.  From the streets of London to the jungles of the Caribbean, the story follows Jack resuming his search for the Fountain of Youth.  Competing with him are his old enemy, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), under the banner of the British crown; his new nemesis, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), hoping to prolong his wicked life; and the Spanish, who serve little to the tale.  In the midst of all of these paths, On Stranger Tides musters a couple of entertaining scenarios, most notably an attack by ravenous mermaids that utilizes more tension than action to provide the thrills.  Unfortunately, scenes like that display the extent of the film’s creativity while the rest feels uninspired as if while looking at the script, Disney execs kept asking themselves “what can we do that’s cheaper?”

 

More damaging to the movie is the uneven focus spread over the different characters. Jack Sparrow steps to the forefront as the lead character but proves very quickly how you shouldn’t have too much of a good thing.  His first appearance had him balanced with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, giving him plenty of screen time to revel in his inebriated nature without wearing out his welcome, but three movies later, his mannerisms are more predictable, and he now has to fill up more runtime with a retread of his usual quips and cons.  Ironically, this additional emphasis on him makes him appear less like the main protagonist.  With no crew and no ship, he has fallen in with the nameless deckhands and is basically just along for the ride.  For once, those who forget to say “captain” before his name aren’t wrong.  On the other hand, the film provides Geoffrey Rush’s alter ego with a new direction for him to explore as a man who has lost the most and is itching to settle a score.  Had the script delved a little deeper into the former foe, this might have been Barbossa’s story with Sparrow working off of him.  Beyond the rivals, Angelica has enough of her own charisma to clash with Sparrow’s, but again, there’s only so little of the 130 minutes to share.  More time with her past with Jack is instead sacrificed for Phillip, a young missionary, and his soap-opera affection for the mermaid, Syrena.  Meant to fill the romantic vacancy left by Bloom and Knightley, their arc garners little interest as Phillip woodenly delivers scripture-like words of adoration to Syrena that only have the power of freezing the film’s pace. Even less buyable is Phillip shouting at Blackbeard about his irredeemable ways, and while Blackbeard has the presence of a formidable villain thanks to McShane’s performance, the script undermines his vile reputation as it leaves the audience wondering why he doesn’t just kill the missionary whenever he opens his mouth.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is more disappointing than bad as it constantly shows signs of what could’ve been a better, tighter installment with the same amount of fun as the first movie, and for that, it is a warm beer.  It may be under the same brand you’ve enjoyed before, but it’s nothing compared to when it was fresh out of the cooler.

-Sean

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