Thursday, 8 September 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Film Review)

The biggest shock about Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is that there was a Pirates of the Caribbean 4. After the last film there were no loose ends, no stories left untold and the characters given considerable closure. The plot of On Stranger Tides instead latches onto the one thing it could find to be a sequel hook; Jack Sparrow holding the map to the fountain of youth. Meaning unfortunately for us he is the protagonist this time around.
While Johnny Depp is on top form, Jack worked best in the previous films as a scene stealing livewire maniac. Someone who worked around the more serious characters doing most of the essential story work, while serving as a device used to cause problems or occasionally change the direction of the plot when needed. Putting him in the leading role simply doesn’t work and the film visibly suffers because of this.
Furthermore POTC4 seems to be pretending that the last several films didn’t happen. There is no easter egg of cursed gold, Bill Nighy having a squid on his face or any mention of any previous characters in this script. Despite this Geoffrey Rush thankfully returns as Barbossa but he’s a far more bitter character; though there is a good reason for this given quite late on. Overall he feels underused and is only saved by the actor’s performance. Actually that goes for just about everyone in this film.

Ian McShane’s quiet menace is the only reason Blackbeard is at all memorable as a villain, albeit one who seems to constantly forget he has supernatural powers. The backup cast tries to recapture the charm of the secondary characters from the first film but the script doesn’t give the time to develop them. The undead henchmen this time around are woefully underused and the Spaniards everyone is supposedly racing to the fountain seem to be in an entirely different film. Much like the romance plot between Philip Swift, a missionary whose name I had to look up, and a mermaid known as Syrena which feels like it’s been unwillingly shoehorned in from the moment it’s introduced.
Does this mean that the film has no redeeming qualities? Thankfully no.
Penelope Cruz’s Angelica proves to be a much better female lead than Elizabeth Swan ever was and has good chemistry with Depp on screen. She also proves to be one of the better written characters.
The film goes back to the spirit of the first instalment and embraces fun over any serious or complex plots, something which is evident from the start. The soundtrack is fantastic with Hans Zimmer once again returning to score the soundtrack. The swordfights are fast moving and the locations are great, though they are let down by Rob Marshall’s cinematography, the director having no eye for composition or action scenes.
So, Does it have flaws? Indisputably. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. Should this be the last Pirates film? Definitely.


Pirates of the Caribbean and all related characters and media are owned by Disney.

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