Let me start my review by saying that I personally love the character of Captain Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp brought something fresh to the pirate genre with his performance in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”. Captain Jack Sparrow has become an iconic character and for good reason, he’s just plain fun. Captain Jack Sparrow is no different in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”. In fact, that is one of the main faults of the movie, it depends a little too much on the charm of Captain Jack Sparrow.
In the film, Captain Jack Sparrow is on a quest to find the fountain of youth but ends up getting captured by the dreaded Captain Blackbeard (Deadwood’s Ian McShane) who can control any ship with his sword. Blackbeard has a daughter, Angelica Malon (Penelope Cruz), who Captain Jack Sparrow has a history with. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack Sparrow’s former enemy, is also on the hunt for the fountain of youth but this time, Barbossa is no longer a pirate, he is now a member of the Royal Navy. Along the way, Jack Sparrow and Barbossa must find some common ground in order to find the fountain of youth and face Blackbeard.
Geoffrey Rush was great as always. I did enjoy the fact that in this latest Pirates film, the filmmakers made Barbossa a more fun and interesting character. He wasn’t pure evil like in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, instead the writers built on what his character had become in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”.
Much like the previous films, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” has a great deal of supernatural elements, perhaps too many. While “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” basically dealt with a cursed ship of undead pirates and the other two sequels focused mainly of Davy Jones and the afterlife, this film deals with the fountain of youth…and zombies…and living ships…and mermaids. It’s not that any of these elements are bad, mind you, it was just a bit of overkill. The zombies could have easily been removed from the movie as could the magical sword which turned any ship into a living vessel (I’m not exactly sure how that was supposed to work but hey, it’s a not meant to be thought provoking). The fountain of youth and the mermaids actually worked fairly well in the movie so I have to give the filmmakers credit for that. I was most skeptical about the mermaids but they were one of the best parts of the movie. Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Syrena was one of the brighter additions to the franchise.
Speaking of Syrena, it was pretty clear that Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Sam Claflin (as Phillip) were meant as semi-replacements for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly opted not to return to the franchise after “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. Syrena and Phillip’s romantic relationship in the film was more a distraction in this film though because it really didn’t have much to do with any of the film’s stars (Depp, Rush, Cruz or McShane). In the original Pirates films, the relationship between Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann was important because there was a love triangle between the two and Captain Jack Sparrow. As a viewer, you weren’t sure if Swann wanted Captain Jack Sparrow or Will Turner (although it think it was pretty clear that Elizabeth Swann would end up with Will Turner). Without a love triangle, the love story between the characters of Syrena and Phillip just distracts us from what’s going on with Captain Jack Sparrow, Barbossa and Blackbeard.
Rob Marshall helms “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”. Marshall takes over for Gore Verbinski who directed the first three movies. Marshall has a slightly different style than Verbinski but it’s not too noticeable. I would say that “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is a little darker in tone (and lighting) than the previous films in the franchise.
A few highlights of the film include quick appearances by Richard Griffiths and returning cast member Keith Richards as Captain Jack Sparrow’s mysterious father. Dame Judi Dench also has a quick little cameo. Stephen Graham as Scrum serves as the main supporting character serving as a replacement for Pintel and Ragetti (Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook). Graham does a good job but his character isn’t given much motivations for his actions. Kevin McNally also returns but is given much to do in the film. He mainly tags along with Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa during various times.
While fun, this film doesn’t have the same charm that the original trilogy had. I didn’t hate the film by any means (in fact I actually enjoyed it quite a bit), but while some of the aspects of the movie were an improvement on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, although aspects failed or didn’t end up turning out as good as it could have turned out. That being said, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is still a very enjoyable film and well worth the price of admission.
OVERALL GRADE: 7/10