227th Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

As good as the first one story-wise, as good as the second and third action-wise; but it’s my least favorite in the franchise

[warning: some key elements of the plot discussed]

Pirates of the Caribbean was the only franchise in which I’ve rated all movies A- and above. Unfortunately, that streak ends with this movie, but that doesn’t mean this movie wasn’t good.

Most people consider this film as a blockbuster pop-corn flick. Most critics think that the sequel’s purpose was just to grab some extra cash from the audience. My thoughts are somewhere in the middle. It was a solid movie but it wasn’t amazing enough to make me want to catch it on 3D or on IMAX.

Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed adventure. Crossing paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Penélope Cruz), he’s not sure if it’s love-or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know whom to fear more: Blackbeard or Angelica, with whom he shares a mysterious past.from Rotten Tomatoes

The English, the Spaniards and Blackbeard’s crew all set towards the fountain of youth, which has the power to make an individual live longer. All of them had different goals. The English seek it to increase their power, the Spaniards want to destroy the fountain to stop everyone else from their greed, while Blackbeard needs it as there has been a prophecy that he would be murdered by a one-legged man. This is basically the focal point of the story as the three factions attempt to reach the fountain first.

I liked how the writers tried to change things up. When the tale of Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom ended in the third movie (fortunately!), they decided to add some more characters that kept the movie fresh and interesting. As a result, the story didn’t get any bigger from the third movie and the franchise was able to press the “reset” button. What’s good is that these characters are involved with Jack Sparrow’s past, which lets us know more about the life of Sparrow. Penelope Cruz had the strongest connection with captain Jack, a woman whose heart was broken by him years before. She’s the daughter of captain Blackbeard, who wields some kind of magic sword that gives him control of his rusty ship.

There were only two characters who were back from the first three installments, Gibbs (Kevin McNally),  the trusty pal of Jack Sparrow, and Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), who sided with the English and is seeking revenge for what Blackbeard has done to his ship (the Black Pearl) and his leg (now wooden). Two other new characters were introduced: Philip (Sam Claflin), a catechist who got tagged along in their journey and Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a mermaid who was captured by Blackbeard as they needed mermaid tears as one of the ritual requirements.

The cast was a little disjointed. Cruz was evidently missing some flair or fierceness, but I recently found out that she was pregnant throughout the filming of the movie. No wonder she wasn’t running, hacking and slashing like the other pirates. McShane wasn’t that scary as Blackbeard, who only seemed powerful when he has the magic sword in his hands. The romance between newcomers Claflin and Berges-Frisbey wasn’t that interesting either, but that’s because the characters weren’t given more time to let us know more about them. I thought they had the potential to be the next couple alongside Sparrow in the next films, but unfortunately they left me disappointed. And come on, who can replace Kiera and Orlando? The mermaids were hot though.

The humor was still there, but not as much as before. The cameo of Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley) was certainly pleasing,  but other than that there wasn’t anything interesting except the intense swashbuckling action scenes occurring in the beautiful and  huge set pieces. Nevertheless, the dialogue of the pirates were still very quotable.

The biggest setback of the film occurred in the final minutes. The last fight scene wasn’t as exciting as the earlier ones, probably due to fatigue (The film runs at 140 minutes, but the shortest among the four). It may have been the shortest, but it felt as long as the other three. Plus, the conclusion was very predictable.

Overall, On Stranger Tides was outstanding 80% of the way, but it lost some steam by the end and wasn’t able to recover. Whatever criticism this movie receives though, I guess it’s safe to assume that there will be another sequel in the works.

GRADE: B

Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed adventure. Crossing paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Penélope Cruz), he’s not sure if it’s love-or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know whom to fear more: Blackbeard or Angelica, with whom he shares a mysterious past.

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