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Movie Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Directed by Rob Marshall
Starring Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, and Ian McShane
Release Date: May 20, 2011

It’s hard to believe that On Stranger Tides is the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie to come out in less than a decade. But Disney has found a cash-cow and it’s obvious the two big stars are still having fun with their roles, so the series marches on. But by the fourth film, most ongoing series have run out of material and the second and third Pirate films were showing big signs of burnout. On Stranger Tides needed to be a new beginning as much as it needed to be a sequel, and in many ways it succeeds.

Picking up an unknown amount of time after the end of the third film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides finds the few returning characters in very different situations than we left them. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has long been without a ship, having lost the Black Pearl to Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) at the end of the last film. Barbossa, it turns out, is working for the British Navy, having also lost the Pearl, along with his right leg, in a battle with the most feared pirate in the world: Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Their paths cross once again after Spanish explorers find evidence of the Fountain of Youth. Joined by Angelica (Penélope Cruz), a mysterious woman with a history with both Jack and Blackbeard, everyone sets off in search of the fountain.

Though the story continues where the third film ends, nearly all the characters from the first three films are gone. This alone is a boost to the series. Like the previous two films, however, On Stranger Tides suffers from having far too many characters. Though it was definitely an improvement to leave Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swan and Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner out of things this time, there still ends up being a gratuitous love story that adds nothing significant to the film.

The living skeletons and fish-men of the previous films are gone, but instead we have mermaids and “zombies.” The mermaids are fairly well incorporated into the story with several characters discussing their mythology prior to the most interesting action sequence in the film. The mermaids are also central to the plot. The “zombies,” on the other hand, seem like an afterthought. Only two characters are described as zombies, and the only thing this name seems to imply is they have ugly facial markings and are tougher than normal men.

But despite the weakness it shares with its predecessors, the fourth Pirates film is fun and a step in the right direction if Disney plans to continue the series. Captain Jack is still an interesting character, and Johnny Depp still brings life to the screen. As long as he still enjoys playing the character, people will still enjoy watching him.

All four Pirates films deserve credit for blurring the lines between hero and villain. Most characters are acting completely out of self-interest and end up betraying one another at some point. Even so, by the fourth time through, the audience should know, if nothing else, Jack will still do the right thing in the end.

But every film has to have a definitive villain and Blackbeard makes for a much more interesting villain than Davy Jones, whose story did not need to be dragged out over two full films. It appears the writers learned their lesson and created a more compact story that could be told in full over a single film. And while Davy Jones’ story got too much screen time, Blackbeard’s could have used a little more. It would have been good to see more time given to the origins of Blackbeard’s supernatural powers, which are only explained with a single passing reference to “dabbling in black magic.” McShane gives a wonderful performance nonetheless. Between this and Deadwood, McShane has proven himself extremely capable of playing a cold, selfish, and greedy bastard.

Overall, On Stranger Tides is probably the best Pirates film since the original, but that is mostly due to the weakness of the the middle two films and not its own strengths. While still a fun summer flick, it has some drawbacks that stop it from be as great a movie as the original. Even so, if the changes made are indicative of what to expect in a fifth film, the series is definitely headed in the right direction.

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6 Comments »

  1. I think this is the first review that makes the claim that this film succeeds at anything. I know it is the first one that suggests the leads are still having fun and not mailing these parts in like priority.

    Comment by Dale (drunken_hopfrog) — May 21, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

  2. First review that I actually agree with. Firstly, more exposition needed with regards to Blackbeard, his use of the vodun, and how that applies to the zombies. Secondly, gratuitous side-plot romance is gratuitous.

    Apart from both those things, this movie was definitely better than par for the course. It truly does not deserve the hatred and vitriol that so many are slinging at it.

    Comment by Matt Emery — May 21, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

  3. Loved and agreed full on with your review! 

    Comment by Dugrey — May 21, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

  4. This is the worst review if read in my life. This film is horrible. I could not even finish watching this movie. I was heartbroken with this terrible movie. Im a super fan of this movies and I have to say…oh boy, the messed up real bad on this one. I love Jack but he seemed a little tired of his character and I saw no passion at all in his acting. Next time before writing a critic for a movie, make sure you watch it first and take notes.

    Comment by Izzy82nd — May 25, 2011 @ 3:38 am

  5. The movie was quite enjoyable. Personally I don’t think the ‘zombie’ characters needed more explanation (in allot of American movies, they explain way too much as if trying to say Americans are dumb) they where just hench men, nothing more nothing less. Why waste movie time explaining that?

    Plot was interesting, but Jack Sparrow didn’t seem as interested in finding the fountain of youth as he did at the end of pirates 3.

    As all reviews, they are down to personal opinion of course; but I find the whole argument about the second and third movies not being as good as the first, quite stupid. It was a story ark and it was done perfectly. It didn’t burn out, and was not ‘dragged’ across at all. Quality remained the same throughout the first story ark.

    On stranger tides did feel a little lacking in comparison to the first three, plot was too compact and needed something more.

    Personally I think Penélope Cruz was a bad choice, not really an actress I can stand in most situations.The post credit scene was a bit pointless; a little disappointing that it was not lead in to another movie.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 29, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

  6. If you didn’t even finish watching, then you have no grounds for even commenting. I doubt you even paid to see it either.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 29, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

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