"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" Movie Review
Batten down the hatches and man the sails, the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie is upon us! Johnny Depp gets new co-stars, the characters have a new quest, but the fourth franchise is really more of the same.
By now, we are familiar with the “Pirates” formula. Open each movie with a grandiose beginning, give Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) a dramatic entrance, and then watch the film fizzle out near the end.
While “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” adapts the tried and true formula, at least the fourth film is able to capture some of the fun and playful spirit of the first film, “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Depp, nominated for an Oscar for his iconic “Pirates” portrayal, is the heart and soul of the movie. And the filmmakers are wise enough to take advantage of the actor by using him in almost every scene. Depp even helped in honing the script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rosio.
Inspired by the novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, the film’s exciting opening scene is set in 18th century London where Jack is trying to find a way to release his right hand man, Gibbs (Kevin McNally), from prison.
A thrilling escape follows soon after which first-time “Pirates” director, Rob Marshall, executed to near perfection. Marshall, whose previous credits include the Oscar-winning “Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and “Nine,” directs the action scenes like great Broadway musical numbers.
Marshall’s star in “Nine,” the Oscar-nominated Penelope Cruz, is picture-perfect as Angelica, the first female pirate of the franchise. Depp, who couldn’t spark any single chemistry with Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist,” succeeds in creating tension and romance between Cruz.
Cruz is not the only new addition to the ever-growing “Pirates” stable. Also making his debut to the franchise is the underused Ian McShane as the mythical Blackbeard, the deadliest pirate of them all. Too bad, the scriptwriters made him more of a caricature and less of a living, breathing character.
In order for us to forget the missing romantic angle of the absent Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), Marshall and company introduced a pair of new lovers. We have the gorgeous Astrid Berges-Frisby as the captured mermaid Syrena falling in love with the clergyman Philip (Sam Claflin).
The mermaid angle is actually a welcomed addition to the franchise. If you subscribe to this maritime folklore, you will enjoy the way the creatures are shown in the movie. There’s even an exciting mermaid scene that brings back memories of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws.”
Like longtime producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s TV show, “The Amazing Race,” Jack, Blackbeard, and Captain Barbossa (the always-dependable Geoffrey Rush) must race against time to get to the Fountain of Youth. Keith Richards, returning as Jack’s father, Captain Teague, even has a funny line about the elusive Fountain.
I wished the filmmakers had used the Fountain of Youth to truly revamp the franchise. My suggestion would be to make the films concise and shorter to add more excitement to the film’s dawdling pacing. But the first three “Pirates” added $2.6 billion to Walt Disney Pictures’ coffers so I don’t think this ride is about to stop soon.
Original director Gore Verbinski was smart to say it was not a pirate’s life for him anymore but as long as Depp is willing to inhabit Jack, then this ride will go on forever, Fountain of Youth be damned!
RATING: “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” 2 ½ KISSES
Country: United States