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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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Review

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise returns to the story of the Turners’ in an epic, yet average film.

I look around the Internet and I see how many people actually enjoyed this film, more so than some of the other sequels. I did not think this film was better than On Stranger Tides (a film I watched for the first time just the other day and actually enjoyed, a review is written and will be coming out next week).

This film returns to the main story line of the franchise, that being the saga of the Turners and Davy Jones, almost 20 years after At World’s End (and yet some how no one looks 20 years older). Our new main character is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the 19-year-old son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Henry’s life long mission is to break his father’s curse and free him from the Flying Dutchman, he has studied every curse and fable of the Sea and he knows that there is one last legend that can free his father… The Trident of Poseidon.

Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is the ‘I can’t believe its not Elizabeth Swann’ character, visually, she simply fits that mould, but her character is so much more. Shes an Astronomer, a Horologist and always the smartest person in the room/on deck. She isn’t as interested in the Trident as she is in reading ‘the Map that no man can read’ that leads to it.

Jack Sparrow (over-acted again by Johnny Depp) is also looking for the Trident to save his own life. Basically, he drunkenly made a mistake which released his greatest nemesis, cursed ghost, pirate killer, “El Matador Del Mar” Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).

Visually, the film is great, the visual effects of the ghost crew are fantastic. The costumes as always are spot on and the sets look well put together. I didn’t enjoy the music as much as in the fourth film, but the soundtrack still worked well for a the action scenes. Watching a ship obliterate another ship with cannon fire is awesome already, add a crescendo in an orchestral piece of music and its amazing. Say what you want about the Pirates of the Caribbean films, but they always look and sound good.

Kaya Scodelario is fantastic in this film playing the intelligent Carina, often mistaken for a witch, she is a woman of science. Naturally, her beliefs are challenged coming up against the ghost sailors, curses, myths and legends that frequent the franchise. Kaya probably had the most to go on with this script, and she made it work. She was definitely the standout in this film.

Brenton Thwaites performed well, but he is unfortunately limited by his character. He’s a great talent but frequently in the movies he appears in this tends to be a problem. Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was, again the awful comic relief, similar to Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Unfortunately, Jack Sparrow was not the most over-acted character in this film – there is an awful cameo. Things just tend to conveniently fall in to place for Jack and the opening set piece in this film is a perfect example. I’m just not a fan of his character any more.

I’ll tell you who I did like though, Javier Bardem. The ghostly and murderous Captain Salazar was a great character. Even through the heavy CGI on his character, you can see Bardem was having a ball playing the pirate hunter. His energy made Salazar a villain worth watching.

Rounding out the main cast, two of my favourites from all the Pirates movies, Geoffrey Rush and Kevin McNally as Hector Barbossa and Joshamee Gibbs. These guys are textbook Pirates, Johnny Depp should learn from these two. A little bit of over-acting and some gusto in the ‘Arghs’ is what a pirate should be. They always turn up in these films and Dead Men Tell No Tales is no exception.

The script was average at best, constantly bringing up new rules and exceptions to those rules within legends that were established in the previous film and even contradicting plot points within the film itself. Directing wise, the action was great, better than the other films, and the actors that probably needed some guidance, Thwaites and Scodelario benefited from Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg work.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an average film, visually great, but the story is where it falls and that’s unfortunate. I wanted to like this film after actually enjoying On Stranger Tides but it slots in at around 3rd or 4th spot on the Pirates franchise ranking – I havn’t decided yet. This film could have worked without Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: Below Average