Unreal Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

2 out of 5 stars

When a film franchise has made $2.5 billion dollars around the world, you can hardly fault those behind it for making another movie. The honest truth behind Hollywood’s sequel craziness as of late is simple, audiences keep paying for them. Artistic integrity means nothing when your pockets are weighed down with gold galleons.

You can credit the last two Pirates films as at least attempting to emulate the success of the first one. They didn’t live up to its originality (how could they as sequels, really?), but a trilogy didn’t seem like the most unnatural idea at the time.

But here now we have Pirates 4, or as it’s subtitled, On Stranger Tides. And stranger they certainly are. It’s like they tried to grab the puzzle box that comprised the first few films, empty it out, and piece it back together to get the same end result. Unfortunately a solid half of the pieces are now missing, and they’ve simply clone stamped Jack Sparrow to fill in the gaps.

Many will forget that Sparrow was not actually the hero of the original Pirates film. Rather, that was young Will Turner, played by Orlando Bloom, a promising young actor who I’m pretty sure has died since that series wrapped. Sparrow was merely a brilliantly played supporting character that stole most of his scenes and became a pop culture icon.

Cruz: “This better gross $800M for me to be wading around in this damn swamp.”

As the films went on, Sparrow plundered more and more screen time until he ended up with most of the movie in his possession. Everything revolved around his antics, and now with Stranger Tides, he’s pretty much the sole star of the show.

The problem with Sparrow is that yes, he’s a classic character, but he works best in smaller doses. I mean that both in the sense that after four movies, his drunken fop pirate bit is a lot less funny than it used to be, but also when he’s the star, the shtick is too overwhelming to populate an entire film.

The film’s writers are mistaken that anything he says or does is inherently funny just because he says or does it. That might have worked for a while, but almost eight hours of Pirates films later, and that just isn’t the case anymore.

Yes, of course there is a mandatory desert island scene.

The plot of On Stranger Tides is more scant than any of the films that have come before it. The Fountain of Youth exists, and it’s a race to see who can get there first. Why this discovery is all of a sudden important and urgent is unclear, but from what I understand it’s something of a 17th century space race between the English and the Spanish.

Spain is supposed to be something of a villain in the story, but they are absent for the entire duration of the film, save for one scene at the beginning and one at the end. Rather, the majority of the bad guy duties fall to Blackbeard (Ian McShane) the most feared pirate on the high seas. For reasons unknown, he has access to a great deal of black magic, which allows him to telekinetically control ships, use voodoo dolls to enact real world pain, steal entire fleets and keep them locked up in miniaturized form and create zombies out of crew members where he sees fit. Oh also, some of the zombies can see the future. Just don’t ask.

“Yarrrrgh my sword has powers! Don’t ask why!”

Anyway, one of his future telling zombies informs him that someday soon, a man with one leg will kill him, and his only way of survival is to find the Fountain of Youth to prolong his life. The one legged man in question is none other than Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who recently had his appendage and ship (the Black Pearl) taken by Blackbeard. He’s now under the employ of the King of England himself, who has sent him to find the Fountain before the Spanish, but he’s secretly hoping for a shot at Blackbeard.

Jack Sparrow seems to get mixed up in all this as a mere afterthought. He escapes from captivity in the film’s only convincing action sequence in downtown London, encounters his father, Keith Richards, who may or may not be a ghost, and then runs into an old flame, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who happens to be Blackbeard’s daughter. She gets the better of him, and all of a sudden, he’s along for the ride.

Honestly, I just finished watching this movie, and I can barely remember one exciting moment from it. There’s a scene where mermaids attack like piranha which was somewhat noteworthy, but that soon evolved into a very strange tangent where a captured mermaid is transported through the jungle so they can harvest her tears(?) and she bonds with a priest that happens to be onboard Blackbeard’s ship(??) and the two of them fall in love during a two hour trek through the jungle(???).

A love that could never (and should never) be.

Blackbeard seems less fearsome than he does wearied with the whole ordeal. For the pirate all pirates fear, he’s kind of a pussycat, almost always swayed by his daughter from violence, but then completely breaks character to become a colossal dick in the film’s closing moments.

Cruz looks good as a pirate wench, and has a sexy accent, but contributes not a whole lot else to the film, as Sparrow is just too strange a fellow for anyone to have actual chemistry with. Depp does an adequate job with the role here, but there’s just nothing interesting for him to do or say. The character’s potential has just been exhausted, and even the most likable icons in cinema we would probably get sick of if say, Forrest Gump 4 was currently being released.

This movie needed to be made for economic reasons, but there’s no reason it should be seen. And with yet another obvious sequel set-up, and Pirates 5 and 6 already in the works, I think we’re going to see this empty vessel floating onward for years to come.

2 out of 5 stars


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  1. I completely agree with this review. Another thought, somehow the pacing of this movie is completely awkward. Some parts feel drag on and on, and some parts just feels like it doesn’t belong. And the movie as a whole, wasn’t fun to watch for me, even compare to At World’s End.

  2. While I still think that Jack Sparrow is awesome, I agree that this movie is a huge disappointment. They get rid of Will and Elizabeth, only to replace them with a bland clergyman and an even blander mermaid.
    Plus, while I liked Penelope Cruz’s character, she was kind of an idiot in regards to Blackbeard. It didn’t matter what the guy said or did, she’d keep right on insisting that he truly cared for her and that he’s not so bad. Even when he would threaten her, she would be totally blind. I guess one could call her loyal, but still. It makes her look stupid and gullible, especially when they both only recently discovered each other.
    Also, we had to see it in 3D, as 2D was sold out. I could barely see a thing through those stupid glasses.
    BUT, I loved the bit with the mermaids. They were eerie, creepy, and pretty ferocious for dainty teenage girls with fishtails. It was like a scene out of a horror film.
    That said, I also have to say that a lot of the film’s plot threads and characters could have actually been understandable and enjoyable with better writing. Oh, well.

  3. Actually their was a book series about jack sparrow that explains the origins of black beards mystical sword. They soend 5 books hunting down the mystical sword of cortez (the spanish conquistador) which is powerfull and dangerous.

  4. you are right, Paul, as always… I didnt like it either, especially because of the plotholes, not explained blackmagic stuff going on and the overall silliness of it all.

    This film is sexy mermaids…and thats it. A pity…

  5. whoa whoa whoa… Am I the only one who thinks that The Pirates are 10 times better off without Bloom and Knightley? I know, depends on the oppinion, but it wasn’t bothering u guys, that the main thing in a pirate movie was a whiny pirate-wannabe blacksmith boy and a princess (or whatever she was) which in few months (gap between first and second movie) became pro marksman, toping all the pirates, squid-zombies or whatever came on her way? It just wasn’t right. The great franchise potential (aka the first movie) ended up as a chick flick with occasional sword fight (and all the good stuff provided by cpt. Jack). For me watching the new episode was like being in a dream with a fear of cruel ending by sudden apperance of mr Bloom. I can agree, it wasn’t the best movie ever, it had many flaws (priest and mermaid, wtf?) but at least they are trying to do something creative with the franchise. Sure it’s for the money, but I don’t care, I had a great time in the movies. And I guess that’s the most important thing.

    oh, and what do you guys think that happened to the preacher? I was hoping that after ending credits they will reveal something…

  6. See one Johnny Depp interview and you find out he never watches his movies. “Once my job is done, it’s none of my business,” is more or less how he puts it. See one pirate movie, and you think, ‘maybe he should.’

    I’m looking forward to him in The Rum Diary. That sounds more like a return to indie form he has a nack for CPR-ing into watchability. How many islands do his daughters need?

  7. Paul.. You are a wise gypsy of opinions and reviews, this movie was the worst of all the movies, In the other films, for the most part, a sense of thrill and intrigue was brought on by the characters and the unkowingness of who’s side they were on, what their true motives were, abd how they planed to go about getting it aswell as adapting to the many arising unknown circumstances, all of this atlas until the ends of the movies, so it gave the veiwers a nice sense of trying to figure out their own theories and then being satisfied either finding out they were spot on in their judgements, or a happly amazed as an unforseen plot twist unseen by all was to come and take it’s place. This 4th movie, had none of this, Blackbeard was just an old hag who seemed as tho he didn’t even care if death took him swiftly until they very last scene where he insisted upon it above all else(also who didn’t see that ending coming) Penelope(cannot remember her characters name) was just a fool who for whatever reason wanted to save her father that she just met(but hot, so it’s  all good). Jack delightful as always but the character failed to me atleast where he seemed so apathetic about the whole process, he didn’t care, didn’t have anything to gain (for whatever unexplained reason didn’t want extended life, if I remember correctly it was because he didn’t want to take someone elses life or something, the fuk? That’s not the jack sparrow we know and love? But that might not be exactally right, I don’t know) and eventually it was revealed that he could get back the pearl(by more unexplained black magic bullshit, now they usually explain it in the other movies right, or atleast it seemed like it, anyways I don’t want to have to have read some book to have prior knowledge just to make sense out of a movie!(Harry potter 6, anyone feel me)), but that still didn’t really  motivate him that much, like at all. The myriad and the priest was shitty writing, needed more expansion on the myrmades yet and why it was necessary, and the priest died like twice in the duration of the movie! The fuk! And did he die at the end? What happened there? I miss Legolas and Sabe,and that guy with the parrot, and that little guy, and those comic relief guys with the wooden eye and the bald head, and all me favorite pirates! I think a cameo appearance from either of the turrners would have been nice,like what has happened to them, isnt he the ruler of the sea and she the head of the brotheren cout or whatever, kind of to big of plotlines to just drop off and let the audience assume that life went on and everything was peachy, just sayin’ a little bit of explanation would have been nice. and now the series isn’t over so it’s not to say it won’t happen. But I’d still like someore depth in the stories, overall the first was obviously the best, but the 2nd and 3rd werent too far off. 
    As a closing note: not one reference to the pirate code, I kinda want to know more about that.

    1. THE worst of all movie?! seriously? At World’s End was the worst! This one was actually a HUGE improvement over At World’s End and the fact that it was predictable is what made it good!

  8. The reason Jack Sparrow wanted the gold in the first movie was because he wanted to be immortal, but had no idea what curse was laid upon it.

    The second movie and third movie, revolved around Calipso’s curse (sorry for spelling) which made Davey Jones immortal and allowed him to be a pirate for his entire life.

    It was only natural seeing them go after the Fountain of Youth, and I wouldnt be surprised if they go for Vampires or The Holy Grail! But that explains why he got tied up in the quest for the fountain, so to speak.

    Alas I havent seen it yet, so i will hold judgment on the new one…

  9. Do you seriously think this movie was bad?! Seriously?! Dude you are a big idiot than. This movie was AWESOME! Better than At World’s End! Whoever disliked this movie does not have a good taste in movies.

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