The summer movie season is officially here! Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a big, loud, fun swashbuckler that could just be the best Pirates in the series thanks to the absence of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Without their annoying characters cluttering up the screen, Johnny Depp has more time to unleash his craziness as Captain Jack Sparrow, and we’re able to meet some more livelier characters than the ones they played.
This time out Captain Jack finds himself stuck on Blackbeard’s ship along with former lover Angelica (Penélope Cruz). They’re mission? To find the “Fountain of Youth”. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is hot on their trail looking for the fountain as well, as are the Spanish. The hunt takes them from the high seas, through mermaid territory (where we learn mermaids are nothing like Ariel and are all evil wenches), high into the hills. It’s a classic adventure story that hits the mark on all fronts.
You either love Depp as Captain Jack or you loathe him as Captain Jack. Either way, it’s more of the same over-acting, fluttery performance from him that we’ve seen in the last three films. Cruz does a decent job keeping up with him, but I never connected with her character enough to care if she lived or died. The real standout is Ian McShane as Blackbeard. With the exception of Deadwood, I really don’t like him as an actor and was dreading his presence in this. He totally owned the role though and was great to watch in every scene he was in.
Replacing Gore Verbinski in the directors chair, Rob Marshall brings elements of his musical background to the production in the overall tone of the film. The atmosphere and dialogue are airier, and the set design feels more like the theme park ride than the previous films did. This one is definitely aimed towards a younger audience too, but it’s also more refreshing and lively to watch (even with a running time of 137 minutes).
While I did enjoy the film a lot, the big downside was the use of 3-D. Like most 3-D films it made the film too dark and took me out of the movie at times (some scenes were pretty much black with the 3-D glasses on). I don’t understand why Hollywood keeps insisting on making the audience suffer with this gimmick. Hopefully it will die soon and we can start focusing on Smell-O-Vision again.
If you’re a fan of the Pirates series, On Stranger Tides will not disappoint. Just try to see it in a normal theatre (or at the drive-in).
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Top image: A scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures.