Monday, May 23, 2011

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Directed by Rob Marshall, written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, and Geoffrey Rush - Rated PG-13

Mermaids with fangs? (Shaking head...)

Captain Jack Sparrow is back and this time he’s not weighed down by Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom; this time Captain Jack is the star, for better or worse. On Stranger Tides attempts to be a simpler tale than the last two Pirates sequels but ends up being just as busy, twice as goofy, and half as entertaining.

Tides has Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp in his comfort zone) searching for the Fountain of Youth. Even though this film has left out Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, Jack still has plenty of cohorts…and enemies. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is the main familiar face. New to the series are Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and Blackbeard (Ian McShane). And thrown in for good measure are some voodoo zombies, a clergyman, a Spanish armada, and mermaids. They all tie together somehow but the point is that it is all a bit too much.

The clergyman and the mermaids are the biggest problem with the film. It’s as if the screenwriters started writing the script without two young lovers in it then chickened out and added a couple of replacement characters for Will and Elizabeth, so any chance of the film being much different from the others went out the window. What’s worse is that these two new additions are much less compelling than Will and Elizabeth. The film would be much better off without them.

Tides would also benefit from the exclusion of the mermaids in general. The Pirates series has always had some goofy supernatural elements to it, but having multiple scenes in which grown men shudder in fear at the thought of mermaids was just too stupid. Not to mention the mermaids themselves which turn out to be…vampires? Vampires with some kind of whips? It’s never really explained just what they are and who cares anyway? They should’ve never been in the film to begin with.

Including Blackbeard and Angelica in Tides was more than enough new blood for the series. Blackbeard even brings in the added supernatural element of voodoo, which is another reason why the mermaids were unnecessary. Instead, the bloated script doesn’t have enough time to really explain anything about Blackbeard and his voodoo tendencies or just what is so magical about his sword or his ship. Ian McShane does what he can with the character, but at times even he looked confused about who or what he was. With that historic character and the casting, the addition of Blackbeard turned out to be a huge disappointment. The film focuses on all the wrong things.

The movie isn’t without its fun, though. Depp is still entertaining as Jack Sparrow. Since this is his fourth time playing the pirate there are no surprises here, but if you’ve enjoyed him before you’ll enjoy him again. Rush is as great as ever as Barbossa, though the film woefully misuses him. The movie would’ve been much better if the entire film had been about Sparrow and Barbossa teaming up. It’s been done in the series before, but so what? Depp and Rush are much more entertaining onscreen together than some no-name, whiny clergyman and a nearly mute mermaid.

The look of the film is one of the brighter points. This is a big budget movie and you can see the money on the screen, which is always a good thing. As far as the action goes, it’s serviceable but nothing too memorable. The 3-D, aside from a few sword pointing moments, was pointless and not at all worth the extra money.

On Stranger Tides is an overlong, goofy mess that could’ve used some serious rewriting and editing. It’s not a complete disaster or anything, but it is definitely a missed opportunity to reinvent the series overall. Many people had been disappointed with the sequels, with some going so far as to skip the third one because the plot had become so convoluted. (I enjoyed the sequels, though I can understand the problems some had with them.) Tides is certainly easier to follow than those films, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically better. The story is simple but there are too many players. The new Pirates film isn’t a colossal waste of time, but it definitely isn’t as fun as it should be. A film featuring Jack Sparrow cannot afford to be this dull and bloated. You won’t be sorry if you just wait to rent this one.

Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

That stuff with Richard Griffiths as King George was almost unbearable.

Why make Barbossa part of the British Navy? Geoffrey Rush has the greatest pirate laugh and they relegate him to the straight man role of the film. Let the guy be the over the top pirate he was meant to be.

Stephen Graham had a few funny moments as one of the new comic-relief pirates.

Was it just me or did it seem like it took forever for Jack Sparrow to finally end up on a boat. A movie with "Pirates" in the title should stick to the ocean as much as possible.


  1. It’s amazing! They always produce a great movie. Johnny Depp is always a great actor. It’s just sad that both Keira and Orlando are not cast anymore on this movie.

  2. The movie was great. I saw it Friday, and I liked it. It seemed to be missing something or had too much of something but I really liked it. I loved the Mermaids!! Johnny is wonderful of course!

  3. William of PerthMay 30, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    I do wonder what happened to the clergy man at the end. Did he die, or go to heaven... I'm sure the mermaid's with fangs was just a ploy to bring in all the romantic vampire fans out there, especially with that small romance between the clergy man and his mermaid...

  4. I wonder about the clergy man too, how romantic if the mermaid really just brought him down to her world and he was able to live a long life....hoping it's answered in the next Pirates:)

    In regards to the mermaids, my son, 5 loved the mermaids as monsters, but my daughter, also 5, couldn't get over that the mermaids were monsters - she wanted them like Ariel her favorite character:)

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