Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is yet another Big Budget Summer Blockbuster that has been unleashed upon us in this, one of the busiest Summer Blockbuster Seasons in a while, Summer 2011! A lot is riding on this Pirates of the Caribbean film, namely, the future of the entire franchise. If this one tanks, it means we wont see anymore Pirates of the Caribbean films for a while (or ever), but if it makes kajillions (like I’m predicting it will) then we will most likely see two more films in the franchise, which is fine by me because if the next two are as fun as this one was, then I’m all for them. Bring them on!
On this the fourth chapter of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, everyone is after the legendary “Fountain of Youth”. That’s right, the very same Fountain of Youth that Juan Ponce de Leon was after back in his day. You drink from its waters and the fountains magic powers elongate your life, or possibly even makes you eternal! So of course everyone is after it! On this flick we have three parties after the famed fountain, The Spaniards, The British and The Pirates! Everyone has their own personal reasons for getting to it, and everyone wants to get there first then the other guy. So once the journey begins, it’s a race to the finish to see who gets to The Fountain of Youth first.
I have to be honest; I had my doubts about this movie for various reasons. The first question to pop into my mind was this: would I be able stand Johnny Depp as Captain Sparrow for a fourth time? Or had the character outlived its charisma? As it turns out Jack Sparrow is still a very entertaining fellow; maybe even more so then on previous films. Jack Sparrow has always been a funny type of character, but this time around they emphasized the comedy factor a whole lot more, as a result, you can’t help but giggle and laugh through out the whole movie, I know I had a big old fat smile upon my face through out this whole movie and Depp’s Sparrow had a lot to do with that. Jack Sparrow’s funnier than ever! Johnny Depp’s still got it in my book; he hasn’t lost that magical charisma he brought to these films. Best part of all is that as opposed to the previous films, Sparrow is the main character, so we see him a whole lot more through out the film, not just sporadically. I guess the studio decided to give audiences more of what they loved most from these films.
The supporting cast is amazing; we have a couple of new additions to the Pirates of the Caribbean family, as well as some old friends and foes. First up, my favorite performance in the film after Depp’s was Ian Mc Shane as the evil Captain Black Beard, the villain of the piece. He looks really evil; he is a strong villain and gives a good performance in my book. They really made an effort to make Black Beard a strong villain, not a weakling as has been happening lately in films. Many filmmakers today are forgetting how to craft a good villain. Filmmakers pay lots of attention to the action and fx and the journey of how we get to point a to point b, but the villain isn’t given much importance and gets ignored in terms of development. Thor and Fast Five are good examples of this, both films had weak villains in my book. I mean, there was a day and time in film history when villains use to steal the show! Kudos to Ian Mc Shane for pulling that off, Blackbeard isn’t the most memorable villain ever, but at least he isn’t forgettable either, he had some gravitas to him, I liked that! Penelope Cruz looked gorgeous, and she has chemistry with Johnny Depp, thanks to the romance that develops between the two we see a side of Jack Sparrow we had not seen before. Geoffrey Rush was another great character on this one. I mean, I just loved how the film is populated by all these great actors, no slip ups in terms of performances on this film, and Kudo’s to the writers for giving them funny lines to work with. When Barbossa and Sparrow end up tied up together, the back and forth banter is hilarious!
The only other thing that worried me about the film was director Rob Marshall who is not all that known for making big budget effects heavy films. He’s the director behind Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Chicago (2002) and NINE (2009), not the most adventurous bunch of films. So I was on the fence on whether he was a good choice or not as a director of this film. Turns out he did just fine; the film has an air of adventure to it that I loved! On Stranger Tides is just a good pirate movie as far as pirate films go. Huge ships, skeletons, hidden treasures, high adventure, deadly sea creatures, this one had all the right elements for a good pirate flick. Speaking of feel, I think the music has a lot to do with what we feel in a movie and this film has a very adventurous old school type of score to it, so beautiful, it soars, it excites, it brings that air of adventure to the film, so kudos to Hans Zimmer for that one.
Also, the films got a dark supernatural element to it which I loved. The supernatural was always a part of these films, what with skeletons and zombies and witches, but on this one they turned it up a little more. For example, Black Beard’s boat is a haunted ship which he controls with a magic sword and the crew is partially made up of zombie soldiers. Which reminds me about the films spooky vibe. It’s the kind of film that will have its characters huddle together to tell a spooky story by candle light. Same goes for the scenes just before they encounter the mermaids. The pirates start talking about how evil the mermaids are, and start spooking each other out by telling these stories. I just loved how the film built up the spookiness of the moment. I never thought Mermaids could be so spooky! The scenes where they have to capture a mermaid were my favorite in the whole film. In terms of pacing, the film goes at just the right pace. I love that this film is not in such a hurry to go from plot point to plot point, like a film with Attention Deficit Disorder. Nope, this one takes its time to tell its story and I loved that. And yet another positive point for the film is that it doesn’t rely so heavily on computer effects, it only uses them when necessary, or to augment a scene. The computer effects are never overdone, I loved that about it as well. So director Rob Marshall gets good grades from this reviewer.
The film comments briskly on faith and religion with a character who is a clergyman. I didn’t exactly get why this character was in the film save for maybe the filmmakers wanting to say their two cents on faith. One scene has Black Beard asking the clergyman to pray to god so that he will save a man who is about to be burned alive, nobody ends up protecting the man who gets skinned alive. What’s the film saying? That there is no God? That God doesn’t care? On other scenes Black Beard comments on religion saying that it’s good for nothing more then blinding people! It was interesting to see Disney (who most of the time try to be so politically correct) choosing to comment on a theme that is avoided like the plague by Hollywood. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they were bashing on religion, but they do comment on it. The clergyman is portrayed as someone who believes in something that’s not really there to help or protect him though he believes something does. The clergy man is also depictedas someone with good moral values. He is always seen as the do gooder, the guy with the big heart who saves the day and does the right thing on more then one occasion.
Bottom line with On Stranger Tides is you don’t need to know anything from the previous films to enjoy this one since this is an entirely new adventure. Yeah there are little references here and there to the previous films, but nothing to make you scratch your head. A word on the 3-D: it’s actually there! It works! Trust me, you wont feel cheated. Keep in mind that this review comes from a person who never really went ga-ga for the first three films, but this fourth one? To me it was pure unadulterated fun! A great cast, a strong adventurous spirit and a pace that never gets ahead of itself made this one a better film than its predecessors. It’s also not overtly complicated like the previous films. Was it just me or did the previous three films get completely incomprehensible by the time they reached the third one? Not so with On Stranger Tides, this fourth one was easy to follow yet not too simplistic either, it was complex enough so that it didn’t confuse with its storyline. A fun movie every step of the way, it aint a masterpice but it sure entertains!.
Rating: 4 out of 5
This is yet another summer blockbuster (the other being Fast Five) that was partially filmed in Puerto Rico!