"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011)

pirates4_final_posterPirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Running time: 136 minutes

Let me start off by apologizing about the lack of a review this past week. Due to technical difficulties that seem to have magically solved themselves (don’t you love technology!) I was unable to sign into my blog and therefore I could not post. However, that does not mean I shall skip a review, no sir, instead there shall be two reviews posted this morning! It will be like the Tenth-Review-Extravaganza only better because both reviews will appear at the same time! Now ain’t that a treat, you can’t say I’m never good to you guys. Anyhow, onto the first review.

Now Showing technically last week is the fourth installment to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise which is subtitled: On Stranger Tides. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, as does Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, but aside from them almost none of the original players have returned for the sequel. Previous protagonists Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are no where to be seen or even mentioned and it’s like they never even happened. Basic plot is that Jack Sparrow has given up searching for the Fountain of Youth, but given he knows where to find it he has been conscripted to help another pirate named Captain Blackbeard, who is “the pirate that all other pirates fear” due to his mystical abilities, to find the Fountain. Along for the ride is newcomer to the series Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s daughter and previous lover for Jack. Captain Barbossa (far too many captains in this series!) has joined the Royal Navy and is leading the British expedition to find the Fountain before Blackbeard and his crew do.

The first thing that both shocks me but at the same time doesn’t shock me is that we’ve made it to FOUR of these films! Four! I had a glimmer of hope from the trailer that it wouldn’t be just a “let’s-make-another-Pirates-because-it’s-guarenteed-to-make-a-gagillion-dollars!” film and actually would be a refreshing reboot from the hole they dug themselves into from the last two films. But no, I was completely wrong in that regard, it is just a “let’s-make-another-Pirates-because-it’s-guarenteed-to-make-a-gagillion-dollars!” film. The film producers were well aware that anyone and everyone would go see it just because everyone loves Captain Jack Sparrow so much. And the people love the character of Captain Jack Sparrow so much that they basically have destroyed him.

Am I the only one that misses back when Captain Jack was a character? And don’t you all start yelling: “but he’s still a character, he’s Johnny Depp!” ’cause you all know what I’m talking about. In the first Pirates film Captain Jack was a character, with a tragic back story of a man who’d had his prized ship and his lively hood taken from him and abandoned on an island with a pistol and one bullet to end his own life. But instead he held onto to that one gun and bullet, and he’s saving it to kill the man responsible for ruining his life. When Jack Sparrow was like that, his humour had purpose. It was funny that he had gun with only one shot, but the reasoning behind it was so serious. And his charisma and his antics were punctuated by moments of vulnerability and anger. That man was “Captain Jack Sparrow”. Now, since about the latter third of the second film onwards, he’s become “Captain Faff About for Laughs Sparrow”. All he’s here for now is to make references to the absence of rum and have ridiculously huge escape attempts. I miss you Jack….

But at least in the last few films his faffing about was mildly tolerable (even though the third film sucked epic amounts, we’re talking beyond human consumption limits here, of balls) due to the fact that there were other main characters to drive the storyline around his antics. In On Stranger Tides, we’ve just got him and it doesn’t work. Given Jack Sparrow has become a comic relief character, he doesn’t work as the main character! And none of the other characters in the film attempt to pick up the slack. Penelope Cruz is just there as a sexy love interest character and she doesn’t really fulfill that role very well. Both myself and a friend of mine I saw this film with were expecting her to be a very large piece of sexy entertainment and we both exited the film underwhelmed by the lack of screen time of Cruz’s breasts. Captain Barbossa is another candidate for a main protagonist but his character is so unlike the character from the last three films he may as well not be Barbossa at all and is no where near present enough to be a main character. So what we’re left with for this film is a faffing-about-comic-relief-side-kick, a-bland-love-interest-without-nearly-a-high-enough-breasts-to-screen-ratio, and a-returning-character-who-is-so-different-that-he-may-as-well-be-a-new-one. I don’t know about you, but that’s a not a good mix of characters for a film.

But at least we have a villain! Captain Blackbeard is the villain, however don’t start celebrating yet because he has his major flaws. Namely: how the fuck does he have the ability to telekinetically manipulate ships to his will using his obviously overcompensating for something sword, and also be able to bend reality enough to have a collection of real ships in bottles? More to the point, is there any “evil” pirate in this world that doesn’t have super powers? This series started off with the simple notion of it being the real world but with one group of special cursed pirates, and it has now spiraled into a realm that includes fish monster pirates, the Kraken, a Ju-Ju Sea Goddess, a compass that tells you want you want most, Mermaids and a pirate who can literally be the puppet master of any ship he wants. Jesus, this stopped being a pirate film and suddenly became Lord of the Rings!

Anyway, back the Blackbeard. At least with all the villains in the last two films there was a reason for them to have their super powers. The crew of the Black Pearl were cursed to be undead from stealing Cortez’s gold; Davy Jones was charged with ferrying the dead to the afterlife, but disobeyed and became a fish monster as punishment. While those are convenient explanations, they are explanations nonetheless. Blackbeard on the other hand gets no explanation as to why he can manipulate reality. It is implied that it is due to the sword, but god knows what the sword is! And what’s more is that he sort of forgets he has these powers unless the plot calls for it, so there was really no point in him having them; the writers could have just thought of more plausible solutions.

In closing, this film is quite bad. While I didn’t loath the two and half hours I spent watching it, if you really think about the film you begin to realise how terrible it is. But I suppose the crowd it is catering for is the crowd who don’t think about their films in any depth other than “Oh Johnny Depp, he’s so hot. I wish I could meet Captain Jack Sparrow *swoon*” even though if they knew anything about pirates they would know that he would smell like a sewer, steal her jewelery, rape her to death and then proceed to crap over the side of his ship. If that describes you, then go enjoy the film! The rest of you, don’t go see Source Code instead of Pirates 4, you’ll have to read today’s second review to find out why….

See you next time!

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