Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Review

I hadn’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie until last week, the day before I saw Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Please note, this review was written before seeing the fifth film, due to other reviews I already had scheduled, this is being released afterwards.

To preface, I’ve only really liked the first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl. The other two were good from a production value point of view, but story line wise they go off in all sorts of directions and the overacting became a staple of the franchise. That being said, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides also features the overacting. When I think about it though, what I really want from a blockbuster pirate movie, is actors acting like pirates. I want the ‘argh me-hearty’s’, swash-buckling, stereotype of pirates that I’ve grown up with. That is what I’ve come to expect when I hear Hans Zimmer’s epic theme, and that’s what I buy a ticket for.

On Stranger Tides, seemed to have a more streamlined story, while there are three ‘teams’ all racing to one goal, as well as a shopping list for ‘the ritual’. The important thing is that the protagonists and antagonists are all heading following a simple story and not all heading off on convoluted journeys for complicated reasons.

As usual, the film looks pretty good, pretty blockbuster-y but again, that’s the point right? The scenes on the water, at night especially, look like they’re shot on a sound stage but some of the location shots were pretty so you forgive it. While there wasn’t much in the line of CGI on characters, mostly enchanted ropes, water and backgrounds, there is a CGI frog that I wasn’t a huge fan of, a far cry from Davy Jones. On the plus side though, the mermaid effects weren’t too bad. I’m just about to get to the acting in this film, but I’m going to mention this now, there’s a clergyman and a mermaid who fall in love or what ever, it was a story tread to get the mermaid to cry because a mermaid’s tear was needed for the ritual – other than that, reasonably unnecessary.

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns along with the first trilogy’s Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) in a one-shot of sorts having very little (if nothing) to do with the films that came before. Barbossa and Gibbs’ style of pirate-y-ness is what I was talking about earlier on. It’s nothing too amazing, but in this film, its fun, it fits the theme. It reminds me of what I liked about The Curse of the Black Pearl. Straight up pirates followin’ maps and findin’ treasure. Depp’s Jack Sparrow felt a little toned down in this film. Not to say he wasn’t overtly Sparrow, but it didnt feel as overdone as it did in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End.

Penelope Cruz plays Angelica, a former flame of Jack’s whose motives and intentions are all over the place. I get the feeling that Cruz was performing each line at a time, because her character tells a lot of ‘lies’ that are actually ‘truths’, ‘truths’ that are ‘lies’, and ‘lies’ that are actually ‘lies’. In a blockbuster like this, a film for the masses, surely there should be a small tell or a subtlety or something that gets you thinking about what she is saying, questioning it’s validity. Either that or she would be killer at ‘two truths and a lie’.

Now we get to Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. While McNally and Rush play your typical pirates who’s allegiances can change with the wind, Ian McShane plays straight up bad pirate with Blackbeard. He’s on a mission to live forever but despite coming up against the film’s ticking clock, a foretelling of his death, he seems to have all the time in the world to kill crew members, threaten Sparrow and even play Russian roulette with his daughter’s life. That minor motive issue aside, the character was great and I would say is the reason I continued to have interest in the movie til the end.

Speaking of the end, its time to wrap this up. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a fun popcorn flick. It isn’t bogged down by the narrative of Will Turner like the first three films were, which gives it a lighter tone. It’s a modern version of the classic pirate films, stereotypes and over-acting a plenty. Still though – enjoyable.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Average

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