Review: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGERS TIDE (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 29 May 2011



Earlier this year, when I caught the first of the few trailers of the heavily-promoted PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGERS TIDE, I couldn't help but feeling like a sour aftertaste. That instantly reminded me how I last felt after I watched the ill-fated PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END back in 2007. So here, I'm sorry to say that this long-awaited fourth installment of the lucrative franchise has officially lost most of the creativity and refreshing angles already peaked in the first two movies. Instead, like the third entry, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGERS TIDE is a bloated mess that are both uninspired and soulless piece of entertainment.

If you remember the epilogue scene in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END where Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) sets sail with a map in a quest for the Fountain of Youth, this fourth entry continues with his newfound adventure. The movie begins with Jack, who disguised as a judge in the city of London, plans an elaborate escape plan to set his fellow crew, Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from imprisonment. You see, Gibbs is being mistakenly identified as Captain Jack Sparrow since he's a most-wanted pirate after all. Of course, the escape doesn't go as smoothly as planned, and Jack himself ends up getting arrested. There, he faces his old arch-nemesis, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who is now a privateer serving for King George (Richard Griffiths). Apparently Barbossa also wants the map to search the Fountain of Youth, and of course that's not only the case as the Spanish Navy is chasing the same thing as well!

Adding further complications is Jack has unexpectedly encountered his old flame, Angelica (Penelope Cruz) in which he once broke her heart and left without a trace. His situations gets thicker when he finds himself involved with the notorious evil pirate named Blackbeard (Ian McShane) whose daughter coincidentally happens to be Angelica! Like Jack and Barbossa, both Angelica and Blackbeard are also hot on their heels to search for the Fountain of Youth.

However, finding the fountain alone isn't enough to fulfill the destiny. There are few artifacts needed as well, which are two silver chalices from Ponce de Leon's ship and the tear of a mermaid. During the journey, Blackbeard and his zombie crew manage to capture one of the mermaids, whose name is Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). And he'll do anything to get the tear out of her eye. As usual, a PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie would be complete without the inevitable subplot -- and that is an unexpected love story between Syrena and the kindly cleric named Philip (Sam Claflin).

Replacing original director Gore Verbinski who previously helmed all three movies in the past, is Rob Marshall. He is of course, best known for musicals including 2002's CHICAGO and 2009's NINE. At the first glance, he's clearly an interesting choice but the novelty stops there. It's sad to see that Marshall doesn't bring anything new to the well-worn pirate genre other than keeping things as pedestrian as possible.

On the other side, it's a good news that this fourth entry streamlined the narrative confusion previously clogged in the trilogy and even trimmed the length of the movie by a little more than two-hour long. Even so, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio's screenplay (which also suggested from Tim Powers' novel called On Strangers Tides) remain as convoluted as ever. Okay, their stripped-down approach to tell the story without relying heavily the hodge-podge of supernatural elements is certainly a bravura move but that also a colossal mistake as well. Nevertheless the result is just as bland as a pancake without the maple syrup. Is it really that difficult to tell a story in a faster pace without going the whole nine yards?

In the past, technical aspects as well as the action set-pieces often the least highlights for a PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie. Alas, none of them really worth mentioning here. Instead, the action are same old tired swordplay and such while the editing are mostly cut too fast to enjoy the excitement properly. And speaking of tired, the ending fares even worse -- it's like as if the filmmakers completely loses idea and simply wrap things up with a huge whimper.

The cast are more of the same, and they are as strictly caricatures as ever. Not even Johnny Depp's iconic role as Captain Jack Sparrow can save this waterlogged sequel this time. Sure, he has his few amusing moments particularly the one involving his debate of jumping over the high cliff, but too bad there's nothing much about him than you already knew in the first three movies. And I mean him in terms of character development. The rest of the actors are equally forgettable, with Penelope Cruz's typically saucy performance as the feisty Angelica and a largely wasted performance by Ian McShane as Blackbeard. Actually casting Ian McShane as an evil pirate supposed to be a terrific choice but the filmmakers fail to establish his character with solid background. Geoffrey Rush, who is so memorable in the first three movies, has now reduced to thankless role.

If anything worth praising for this otherwise lame fourth entry is the inclusion of the mermaid. It's not your typical family-friendly mermaid you used to see from Disney but something more deadly -- let's just say, femme fatale.

This is clearly an all-time low for a PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie, although this fourth entry is slightly an improvement over the hugely bloated third entry. For those who stick around after the end credits, there is an open ending for a possible fifth installment. Should there be a fifth entry, let's just hope the filmmakers spend more time to develop their movie more creatively than just opting for an easy cash cow.

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