Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Directed by Rob Marshall
Written by Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio

Coming out in 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl created a sensation and became one of the year’s biggest blockbuster hits, earning Johnny Depp an Academy Award nomination for his turn as Captain Jack Sparrow. Since then, the Disney production has spawned three sequels. With the fourth installment hitting theaters last Friday, the filmmakers looked to resurrect the franchise to what it once was as the subsequent sequels have been met with waning popularity and critical response.

This time Jack Sparrow (Depp) is in London looking to raise a crew for an expedition to the Fountain of Youth, but he is not without competition in his venture. The Spanish are also interested in finding what Ponce de Leon first discovered. The British government has hired Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). And notorious pirate, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), is also joining in on the race to everlasting life. Jack Sparrow must think quickly on his feet to outlast not only his competition, but also mermaids.

Penelope Cruz also joins in the fun as Blackbeard’s daughter Angelica, but the problem with this action adventure tale is that everything is stale. The story lends itself well for a good adventure movie, but it seems director Rob Marshall is less concerned with telling a story than he is throwing characters, dialogue and images together and calling it a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The story is inconsistent at best, featuring obvious twists and humor that sticks out too much. The locations are beautiful, but Marshall does not seem to be able to fully utilize them. The issue is not aided by the editing of the film either, which seems to think quick edits a la the Bourne franchise works best when in reality it just manages to create a collage of confusing action. And perhaps this technique was used to mask the extremely choreographed feel of all of the fight scenes, which were imaginative, but in theory only. The action ended up feeling stale, much like the rest of the film.

There is also an unnecessary romance, between a mermaid and a missionary, thrown into the film to replace the absent Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. It seems forced and is done without any hint of maturity or gravitas to the story. Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Nine), who is known for getting great performances from his actors, gets a few decent ones here, but nothing really of note. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow seems clichéd as this point in the series and is not nearly as fresh as he once was. Marshall, with his background, seems like a strange choice to replace Gore Verbinski as director of the series, and it proves to be the case with this lackluster, flat entry into the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

2 comments

  • I'm really hoping this is the last Pirates film, and based on your review, it doesn't sound like it's worth seeing. I really enjoyed the first one, but the sequels were messy and convoluted. Sadly, I expect this will make a good deal of money, and Disney will keep cranking out more Pirates films.

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