The Good: The film starts well and ends all right, Generally the acting
The Bad: No real character development, 3-D effects do not add anything, Ian McShane is underused, Movie lags.
The Basics: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a strangely slow-moving series of monotonous sequences that barely add up to a typical summer action-adventure film.
When I first heard about a film being made based upon a ride at Disney World, I was skeptical. The ride was Pirates Of The Caribbean and the film did not knock me out. So, when I heard that there was going to be a fourth Pirates Of The Caribbean film, it was hard for me to muster up the effort to care. Having now seen Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, it is hard for me to muster up the enthusiasm to write much about it, so this is likely to be one of my shorter film reviews.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides reinvigorates the franchise without the two characters that couldn't reasonably appear given how the last film ended. So, where in the Pirates timeline this occurs is a bit murky, though it is after the first trilogy. My main complaint with Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is that it is nothing viewers have not seen before. Moreover, it doesn't feel like much in the way of an organic movie. For sure, it looks fine (though the 3-D effects do not add very much to the movie, so shelling out for the 3-D version is not recommended), but rather than being a cohesive film it feels more like a series of frenetic events loosely connected by scenes where I didn't grow to care more about the characters. So, there's a chase followed by a swordfight followed by a mutiny leading to a battle at sea and then a climactic battle with little else in between. And after two hours, I didn't care a bit.
Gibbs, the first officer of Jack Sparrow's ship, the Black Pearl, is brought to trial in London where he is acquitted by Jack Sparrow himself, who is impersonating a judge. After a chase to elude the British soldiers and King George himself, Sparrow goes in search of a doppelganger using his name to recruit a crew for his new ship. Having lost the Black Pearl, Sparrow becomes interested in the impostor and fights with his double until he discovers that it is Angelica impersonating him. A former romantic interest, Angelica is searching for the Fountain Of Youth, which Sparrow recently had a map to. Dragooned by Angelica, Sparrow finds himself aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge working for the mysterious pirate Blackbeard.
While Barbossa, who now has only one leg, hunts for Sparrow, the Fountain and the two components needed to make the Fountain's water worthwhile (two chalices in the possession of the corpse of Ponce de Leon and a mermaid's tear), Sparrow leads a mutiny on Blackbeard's ship. Fighting officers who are mindless voodoo zombies for Blackbeard, Sparrow haplessly finds himself involved in rescuing a missionary, capturing a mermaid, and leading the Spanish (and English) to the fabled Fountain Of Youth.
Honestly, there's not much more to recount than the plot here. The rest of Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is nothing new at all. Sparrow does not grow, change or evolve in the course of the film. Similarly, Johnny Depp seems more subdued in the role of Sparrow, as if he is getting sick of playing slightly crazy or crazed. The result is that he slouches through the role and doesn't land the character with the sense of panache that made him so popular to begin with.
Add to that, the supporting cast is woefully misused or underused. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbossa and his character is out for revenge. Having lost the Black Pearl and his leg to Blackbeard, Barbossa seems like he ought to be more angry than Rush plays him and this is an unfortunate twist for an actor who has such presence to him usually.
The same can be said for Ian McShane as Blackbeard. For sure, McShane has an amazing pirate look and he sells the appearance of Blackbeard. But his gravitas is entirely underused in the role. He kills coldly and he threatens members of the crew and his own daughter, but when he does it comes across as more mundane than terrifying or evil. That's not to say Blackbeard isn't evil; he is. But it is more his acts than the way McShane acts as him that sells him as evil in this film.
I've not been a fan of Penelope Cruz and her performance as Angelica in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides did not turn me around on her.
As for the special effects, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is adequate, but in no way extraordinary. Two of the major battles are cheated by being in darkness, so the effects department gets away with making some of the battles ridiculously simple and just keeping them moving fast to seem in any way extraordinary. But things like the arrival of the Queen Anne's Revenge in Whitecap Bay reminded me of The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (reviewed here!).
Ultimately, this is pretty mindless summer fare and with over two hours of runtime, it feels long. In contrast, I saw this as a double feature with X-Men: First Class (reviewed here!) and while they are about the same duration, this felt about three times as long. I wouldn't even bother catching this for free on television.
For other Pirates Of The Caribbean films, please check out my reviews of:
The Curse Of The Black Pearl
Dead Man's Chest
At World's End
For other film reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.