Film Review – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (M)

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

The Pirates of the Caribbean series has long legs for something that was inspired by a theme park ride. And people usually complain when movies are based on video games. The first Pirates was an unexpected smash hit due to an old forgotten genre brought back to life with the help of Johnny Depp’s uncanny interpretation of a pirate. And big box office begets big sequels.

The series kept its audience despite the fact each installment got longer, bigger and stranger than the last. Who can even recall the complex plotting anymore? And with offbeat moments such as hallucinatory multiple Jack Sparrows, perhaps the third should have been called On Stranger Tides. What started out as a winning formula quickly descended into hollow Hollywood hogwash.

Mega producer Jerry Bruckheimer gave it a rest for a while and hired a new director before releasing a fourth. This one isn’t the fresh resurrection it thinks it is but it has been stripped of all the everything including the kitchen sink plotting that sunk the other sequels. It is an easier to follow, enjoyable trip back into choppy waters.

Captain Jack Sparrows (Johnny Depp) gets caught up in another treasure hunt this time sans love birds Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elisabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) who have been stripped from the series along with the extra sub plots. Jack gets wind of someone in London claiming to be him to recruit a crew on the search for the fountain of youth. While he is in town he is caught by King George (Richard Griffiths) and forced to team up with nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to find the fountain before the Spanish do, who have apparently begun their own expedition.

When he escapes, he bumps into old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz) who turns out to be his imposter and also the daughter of pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Jack is taken aboard their ship and forced to go along for the ride. But the only way the fountain of youth can be effective is with two silver chalices, which must be found along the journey, and the tear of a mermaid – who aren’t as friendly as one would think.

And if that isn’t complicated enough, two people have to drink the fountain water from the chalices at the same time and the one with the tear in it takes the life from the other person. All their problems are compounded with Barbossa and his crew being just one step behind the whole way.

It was wise for Bruckheimer to part ways with ex-Pirates director Gore Verbinski. The two of them together just did not know when to say “when” when it came to budget and spectacle. The films became convoluted to the point of boring. Rob Marshall recognises that less is more with this installment. He recaptures the spirit of the first one while still managing to create some rollicking sequences.

Depp and Rush are still a hoot and still look like they are having a blast which is a key factor in these films. The addition of Cruz was a good one who injects some feisty fun, something Knightley struggled with. The 3D effects offer little to enhance the ride and render the night scenes virtually unwatchable.

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