Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides

26 05 2011

AFTER TWO MEDIOCRE SEQUELS, I WAS EXPECTING A POOR SHOWING FOR PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES

While it still lacks the magic of the first film, it has some refreshing characters and glitzy gimmicks that prop up the convoluted plot.

Pirates 4 On Stranger Tides

In this fourth installment of the popular Disney franchise, the focus is on Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his former paramour, Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Will and Elizabeth do not even make an appearance.

The plot feels standard and familiar: all the characters are racing to find the fabled Fountain of Youth for various reasons. As they move towards it, they encounter obstacles, fight each other, and change allegiances. It’s a predictable storyline that has been rehashed since the first movie.

The action is also similar to the other Pirate movies, but it’s not always as good. In one scene, Jack escapes from a room full of armed soldiers. To do this, he shoots down a chandelier, breaks open a window, and waits for the soldiers to blindly rush at him, one by one, as they slip on handkerchiefs. While ridiculous action has always been a hallmark of the series, it seems to go too far in several scenes.

Pirates 4 On Stranger Tides

That being said, there are some entertaining action sequences. The scene in which Jack Sparrow’s crew must lure and ensnare mermaids is particularly memorable. The pirates sit in a tiny rowboat, singing, until a number of beautiful mermaids surround them. When their sultry singing fails to lure the pirates into the water, they suddenly attack with a blur of teeth and whips.

The addition of some of the new characters is an unfortunate weak point. An inexplicably lifeless Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane), does little more than grumble pirate catchphrases. As one of the most infamous pirates in history, Blackbeard deserves a more well-thought out character.

Furthermore, the movie tries to introduce a romantic subplot between two minor characters, a Christian missionary and a mermaid. Sadly, the effort feels forced, and is nowhere near as interesting as Will and Elizabeth’s roller coaster relationship from the previous movies.

The one positive addition to the cast is Penelope Cruz. As the beautiful and seductive Angelica, she provides an entertaining, female version of Jack Sparrow. In fact, when the audience is first introduced to Angelica, she is busy impersonating the crafty pirate herself.

Pirates 4 On Stranger Tides

The plot may not always make sense (who leaves Jack Sparrow tied to a tree, unguarded?), and it ends up feeling a tad long, but On Stranger Tides is mildly entertaining. Although I sometimes wish they had left this franchise alone after the first movie, it’s definitely not the worst cash grab I’ve ever seen.

The original Pirates of the Caribbean was so good because it balanced ridiculous action with believability, sprinkling some entertaining characters and subplots along the way. Now, with the series well past its expiry date, it is starting to act its age. Jack Sparrow’s silly antics can only carry a movie so far, and On Stranger Tides feels old by the time it concludes.

Like the ride at Disneyland, the Pirates of the Caribbean series continues to carry passengers, but the entertainment drops with each successive viewing.