PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
Directed by Rob Marshall
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Penelope Cruz as Angelica
Ian McShane as Blackbeard
Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa
Sam Claflin as Philip Swift
Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Syrena
Pirates get a bad rap. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t think a film about pirates would appeal to anyone beyond the very young. And then came Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, and overnight your perceptions changed. Most of the plot was silly. There was a lot of fighting, shouting and general mayhem. An attempt to convey an illusion of substance by loud noises and epic battles. Still, it was a deliriously entertaining popcorn flick, and Jack Sparrow was one of the most unique characters in cinematic history.
Then came two sequels, and the joy started to drain out of the franchise. Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End couldn’t match up to the expectations created by Sparrow and Co.’s debut. It seemed like they were done just to exploit the goodwill created by the first film. And now it has come full circle.
On Stranger Tides begins well, with an opening sequence that gets your hopes up. It’s fast-paced, funny and thrilling, and recalls the best moments of the first film. After that it slowly devolves to slavishly follow the formula of the previous three films. What is hardest to accept is Captain Jack. He does all the things we love him for, but now it seems so sluggish and half-hearted. Jack gets caught. Jack escapes. Jack sways from side to side. Jack fires one liners. We’ve seen all of this before, and the thrill is gone.
The two new characters rescue the film somewhat. Penelope Cruz is feisty in her role, and brings a much needed energy to the film. Ian McShane is absolutely brilliant as Blackbeard. He completely steals the show, but is criminally underused. He was the most interesting character by far, and I wanted to see more of him. Oh well. Geoffrey Rush is Geoffrey Rush, and gives the expected good performance as Barbossa.
Ian McShane shines as Blackbeard in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Mermaids! Eye candy, but I’m not quite sure what purpose they serve to the overall story. You remember the criticism of the Will-Elizabeth relationship, that it distracted from the story? The Philip-Syrena relationship is similarly pointless. And when the stated goal of your movie is to find the Fountain Of Youth, it might help if you explained what the Fountain is, and why exactly Jack needs to find it in the first place.
Rob Marshall’s direction is less CGI-heavy than Gore Verbinski’s, so you don’t get as many epic battles. But in his quest to make a smaller-scale film, he has sacrificed the wit and visual wonder of the franchise. And the 3D, oh Lord, the 3d. I assume Marshall was aiming for a dark, serious tone but all the 3D does is make the image dim and gloomy.
Hardcore fans of the franchise will probably like this, but I suspect even they will consider it sub-standard.
RATING (OUT OF FIVE)