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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

May 18, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

Let’s face it, the last two Pirates of the Caribbean flicks were bloated, chaotic and sporadically entertaining. So what did the powers that be do to remedy the same potential problems that could show up in the fourth installment? They trimmed the run-time, picked up an Oscar-nominated director in Rob Marshall, dropped Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, added Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz, and focused most of the attention on good ol’ Jack Sparrow. What does this all equal to? An adventure that trumps the last two sequels, and captures a bit of the charm, while also creating its own, from the original.

Director Marshall weaves an interesting enough story, for a summer film, with a comfortable jogging pace and plenty of action. CGI isn’t as used as much as one would expect in a blockbuster summer flick. Some of the effects are quite clever, but not as clever as some of the dialogue. Marshall shoots the action scenes neatly enough that we can actually concentrate on the action, instead of just a massive juggling of action sequences. Marshall also makes this film darker than the last three, with vicious mermaids, brutal deaths, and greedy double-crosses and so forth.

Johnny Depp reprises his role as the strangely witty, cunning pirate by the name of Captain Jack Sparrow, and he knocks it out of the park like most of us were expecting. In this run-around, Depp is just as clever and animated as in the previous films, but now it seems he’s even more adventurous and action-savvy than before. In parts of the film, he almost resembles an action hero…almost. Penelope Cruz plays Sparrow’s old flame, Angelica, who also happens to be Captain Blackbeard’s daughter, and she has solid chemistry with Depp and is always a pleasure to look at. Angelica is a feisty Spaniard with dangerous intentions and to Sparrow the girl is poison that he has trouble resisting. Geoffrey Rush is made-up in new duds, as Captain Barbossa, and this time around he’s hell-bent on revenge for the devious acts committed to his leg and the Black Pearl. Rush nails the role again, and some of his actions are even cheer-worthy.

Although it’s not Aztec golden, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a worthy step up from Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End, making for a good-enough ride. It even has a nice little message to boot. Beneath the witty lines, beautiful faces, blazing pistols and clashing cutlasses is Sparrow’s simple belief that immortality isn’t freedom; therefore, it’s a pirate’s life for Jack.

Potential Drawbacks:

Although this film is the shortest, you can still feel its length at times, especially when there are poorly executed joke references to the previous films. The special effects are a bit shoddy and not too impressive for the most part. Ian McShane, as BlackBeard,  is wonderfully menacing when the script calls for it, but he’s not given a whole lot to do.

The story is definitely fresh, but what they do with the story is relatively safe, and they never take this Pirates film to a new level: where it should be by the fourth installment. It’s as if the creators were so focused on getting this film to be better than the previous sequels that it forgot to do something new, for the most part. In addition, the film seems like it references religion quite a bit; at times it’s funny, but other times it’s repetitious.

Yes, the action scenes are abundant, but for most of them there isn’t any emotional weight or thrill. Most of them feel like they’re inserted to keep the film pumping. Lastly, the mermaids look like sea vampires—I thought it worked, but some may find this silly. The mermaid love story is a bit cheesy as well.

P.S.

There’s an additional scene after the credits.

Film Recommendations:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

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