Monday, May 23, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

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!


Ricky said...

Great review although I might wait for the DVD of this one.

Franco Macabro said...

Glad you enjoyed the review Ricky, though I will say this: it aint a bad movie to see in cinemas, the 3-D was pretty decent, but aside from that it was a very light hearted fun adventure, I enjoy movies of that nature every now and again.

odenat said...

well, i didn't like this movie much. But, then, i didn't like the previous movies too. I only enjoyed the first part of the first PoC movie, but then, when supernatural stuff started, i was so disappointed.

I think i'm very conservative and for a good pirate movie, i require Errol Flynn to be in :))))

By the way, it'll be very good if you review some of his movies in your blog.

HorrO said...

Another great review. Just saw the movie last night and loved it. I am a big Pirates fan, and this movie didn't disappoint. Jack is one of my favorite movie characters of all time. Johnny does such a great job in this role, almost like he was born to play it. I didn't plan on seeing it in 3D, but did and was surprised like you. There were actually some good 3D moments. I guess Disney had to make up for ripping us off with the lack of 3D in some of their other movies. Can't wait for Pirates 5!

Franco Macabro said...

@Odenat: If you dont like supernatural elements in your films then this is definetly the wrong franchise to watch, I think every single one of them has horror elements laced into their stories.

I'll see if I can check out some Errol Flyn pirate films at some point. The only one I have seen is Captain Blood, really enjoyed that one!

HOrrO: I think you will be seeing another Pirates film in the near future, this one made on to make history with its phenomenal opening weekend grosses! 256 million dollars! Holy Moly! I guess the studio underestimated how much people loved Jack Sparrow and his adventures! I was a bit doubtful myself.

3-D was great on this one, Im so glad it wasnt a rip off on that department.

Thanks for commenting everyone!

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at the theater today and agree with your assessment of the film, Francisco. This fourth installment is less complex and more light-hearted than its predecessors. This is in part because the Will Turner/Elizabeth Swann storyline was concluded in PotC: At World’s End, so a new plot was started with this film.

It is a classic quest story; with three different groups all vying for the legendary Fountain of Youth. Unlike the first three films, where the viewpoint character is Will Turner, this film the focal character is Jack Sparrow. As a supporting character, Sparrow was charismatically heroic and unpredictably goofy all at the same time. By placing Sparrow at the center of the story, he must drive the story and be slightly less capricious as a result. Jonny Depp manages to keep Jack just as naughty and nutty as always, while still making him likable. As you say, this film emphasized the comedy because Sparrow’s view of his world is emphatically whimsical.

I also think that a lot of the tone of this film could be credited to the new director Rob Marshall. The writers for all four films are similar, so Marshall must have decided to accentuate the comedic components of the fantasy elements, than the darker chaotic aspects that Gore Verbinski focused on. I too was concerned that a different director would change to look and feel of the Pirates of the Caribbean film, but it did most assuredly did not.

I too really liked the new villain of this film. Finally, we get a truly evil and selfish pirate in the form of Blackbeard, played to the hilt by one of my favorite actors Ian McShane. I loved the interplay between Depp and his new/old romantic entanglement Angelica Malon, played with spicy exuberance by Penelope Cruz. I’m glad they brought back Captain Barbossa and Sparrow’s first mate Gibbs, even though they take a definite back seat to Sparrow, Malon and Blackbeard.

Oddly, the character I missed the most was The Black Perl: the ship that is so dear to Jack Sparrow’s heart. Another major omission was the lack of any ship-to-ship sea battles that were so prominent in first three films. Perhaps the filmmakers felt that it would be difficult to top the massive fleet battle at the end of PotC: At World’s End.

I don’t quite agree with you that the “spooky vibe” was played up in On Stanger Tides. Yes, there was a haunted ship, magic sword, zombie and mermaids, but not one of these supernatural elements played a major role in the storyline, other than the quest goal itself. The best were the mermaids, but even they had only one big scene in the film. I’m not saying I was disappointed with the supernatural aspects of this film, but I felt they were downplayed more than in the first three films.

I rewatched all three Pirates of the Caribbean films before seeing On Stranger Tides and I agree that the second and particularly third film was overly complex – although even At World’s End makes perfect sense if you pay attention to plot details throughout. Still, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides fulfills its prime objective, which is to entertain and amuse; which it does by the boatload!

Franco Macabro said...

@Fritz: Agree, it was great seeing Sparrow kind of growing a heart, he usually only cares for himself. That scene where he admits to having some feelings was funny.

I too missed those ship to ship battles, I was actually half way expecting one when Geoffrey Rush spots the Spaniards, that would have been awesome, those battles with cannonbals are always my faves...but alas, I guess we'll be seeing some of that in the certain to come sequels.

Well, we also had the voodoo, and that scene where Black Beard controls the ship and the ropes in the middle of the mutiny, I loved that scene! But I see what you mean, I did find the scene with the Mermaids ultra spooky though, and that scene is extended, but when compared to previous ones, I see what you mean.

My favorite of the old ones is the second one, that battle with the Kraken is spectacular. I'm looking forward to re-watching that one.

Thanks for commenting Fritz, your comments are always appreciated!


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