“There’s the Jack I know!” Johnny Depp is back again as Cap’n Jack Sparrow, the always half-drunk, dread-wearing, eyeliner-loving, witty, shameless, coward yet bold at the same time, buccaneer dripping in more trinkets than a souvenir shop. In “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” he meets his match.
If at the end of the third “Pirates” movie, it seemed almost a given that Disney couldn’t possibly come out with something new for the exhausted franchise, it’s because it didn’t have director Rob Marshall and Jerry Bruckheimer on board.
Marshall, he of the acclaimed “Chicago” and “Nine,” is well versed in putting dancing on film, a skill that comes terribly in handy when shooting action scenes – of which “On Stranger Tides” has in abundance.
With Gore Verbinski, who directed the first 3 “Pirates” films, out of the picture, it was to be expected for the fourth to be different – nay, it was desired that it be so, otherwise Sparrow would have been dead in the water. Literally.
“On Stranger Tides” aims to rid itself of the cluster of plots, subplots, sub-themes and supporting characters that nearly drove “At World’s End” into the ground towards the third act.
Jack Sparrow is now in London, where he learns that some other pirate pretending to be him is looking for a crew to sail to the famous Fountain of Youth.
The impostor, it seems, is actually one of Jack’s former acquaintances: Angelica (played by the feisty and lovely Penelope Cruz) is trying to get together a crew to sail with her father, the terrible Blackbeard (Ian McShane), for the Fountain.
If they don’t make it there in two weeks’ time, Blackbeard is in mortal danger – and even though he’s a “very bad man,” Angelica can’t let that happen. So, she’ll use whatever ace she has up her sleeve to get Sparrow to show her the way there.
The problem is, of course, that they’re not alone in wanting to get to the Fountain: Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), now a one-legged aide to the king of Britain, has set eyes on it, as also did the Spanish.
As with every other “Pirates” movie, nothing is what it seems at first sight: Angelica may not be Blackbeard’s daughter, Barbossa may not be loyal to the king, and Sparrow may not know the way to the Fountain as he claims.
None of that really matters, though, because “On Stranger Tides” actually manages to do what only the first installment in the franchise, admittedly the best, did to a certain extent: get from point A to point B without endlessly and pointlessly going around in circles.
Moreover, it brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the franchise, thanks to the introduction of several new characters that actually do their part in terms of keeping this huge, bombastic ship of a movie balanced.
While some may have decried the departure of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom from the franchise, as well as the death of the superb villain played by Bill Nighy (Davy Jones), their absence is not felt as sharply as one may think.
For one, Penelope Cruz brings a much-needed counterpart for Depp’s Sparrow, and they do such a fine job on their own that there’s hardly any need for supporting characters in the film. They could have done just as good a job without the underdeveloped love subplot.
Then, there’s Blackbeard: McShane is menacing even when he doesn’t talk, which means he’s by far the best villain in the franchise. Not only does Blackbeard command the grimiest and deadliest pirate ship ever, Queen Ann’s Revenge (the Black Pearl is gone, by the way), but he can also turn his crew into zombies because they’re more submissive that way.
Blackbeard is so self-sufficient and powerful that he can even command the ship on his own – supernatural powers, it’s always great when a pirate has them.
The only dead weights to the narrative are the cleric Philip (newcomer Sam Claflin) and the siren Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). They may be unspeakably pretty and their presence makes sense, but it’s their eye-locking and thoughtfully gazing at each other that seem to bring the pace of the film to a screeching halt.
Speaking of the pace, while “On Stranger Tides” is just as action-packed as all the other installments, it makes more sense than them by far, mostly because of the above-mentioned linear plot.
Action scenes and bloodless fight scenes are all well choreographed and acted out, the production value on every minute of the film being painfully obvious. This is a film that stands out for being incredibly labored, nothing is left to chance, from the costumes to the brilliant score by Hans Zimmer.
“On Stranger Tides” has also been shot and is released in 3D, which, again, gives it the upper hand on previous installments, to which it will undoubtedly be compared.
Then again, seeing how “Pirates” will, from now on, move into an entirely different direction with Cpt. Sparrow as the leading character, this is probably the best idea that Disney could come up with to mark the break.
All in all, while still longer than it should have been (137 minutes), and at times a bit too loud and exhausting, “On Stranger Tides” marks a step up for a franchise that many – and critics mostly – believed was dead.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, opened nationwide in the US on May 20 and in most territories, and will end its run in Argentina on June 9.
There’s a new dynamic obvious in “On Stranger Tides” and it marks a much-needed change from previous installments. The fourth “Pirates” film is better balanced, better acted, and boasts mind-blowing special effects and excellent 3D.
This is a film based on a popular Disney ride, so it’s a wonder it’s made it so far as it is. In other words, some of the jokes and moments seem dated and overdone. Parts of “On Stranger Tides” play out like scenes we’ve already seen – and of which we’ve already grown weary.
As critics put it, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is much better than the third installment, a bit improved as compared to the second, and somewhat worse than the first. Fans should not – and will not, most likely – miss out on yet another crazy ride with Captain Jack Sparrow at the helm.
I did like this movie a lot and I usually adore Penelope Cruz, but not this time. As the main female lead, I thought Cruz was simply ( and i'm not a man btw so nothing to do with wanting to see young breasts on screen) too old. The characters reasons against Jack were that he seduced her when she was an innocent and her reasons for helping Black beard were that he was family. I felt a younger actress would have been more believable in being naive and hot-tempered enough to still blame Jack for seducing her ( it takes two to tango) where as a woman of Cruz's years would have wised up and let go of the past. I also got the feeling that there encounter was many, many years ago again because Cruz looks to be a more mature woman and she was just about to take her vows when Jack seduced her, making you believe she was very young at the time. This to me, made me think 'oh get over it' where as if the woman had still been very young and Jacks deflowing of her hadn't been so long ago, i would be more enclined to believe the whole 'scorned woman' vibe. Her also not realising her father to be a selfish, evil SOB made me think of naivity and immaturity in not being able to recognise great flaws in family members which again, more believable on a younger actress.
Penelope played the part well, but simply wasn't believable as the scorned, hot-tempered, vengeful ex lover of Jack Sparrow.