We now have a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film on our hands. Rob Marshall takes over as the director in the franchises newest installment. Marshall’s previous directorial credits include Chicago and Nine. What can a new director bring to a franchise that is on the verge of wearing out its welcome?
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides pulls back its story in the sense that it is a straightforward three way race to find the Fountain of Youth. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is tricked into joining one of the parties in the race. The first party is run by Blackbeard (Ian McShane) aboard his ship that is named Queen Anne’s Revenge. The first mate of the ship is a woman named Angelica (Penelope Cruz) who is also the daughter of Blackbeard. Angelica tricks Sparrow into joining him because Sparrow claims he has seen the Fountain and Angelica and Blackbeard want to reach the Fountain. Angelica and Sparrow also have some unfinished business as well. The second party is being run by Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush); he is being funded by the King of England. The third party is the Spanish, who have their own reasons for wanting to find the Fountain as well.
The three all encounter problems when on their respective quests. These problems range from fights with each other to having to tangle with dangerous mermaids. The race is on, who will be the first party to find the Fountain? Which party will drink from the Fountain giving them immortality?
One thing that this Pirates movie does do well is it does mange to tell the story in an interesting way. The one element that a film must have when it chooses to be a quest story is likeable characters. This movie succeeds on that level; all credit goes to Depp for that. Despite Sparrow being a drunken bumbling pirate, he is likeable and the audience is able to root for him.
Depp, Cruz, and Rush all have great chemistry between each other. Especially Depp and Rush for when they start having more scenes with each other the film becomes more enjoyable. Sparrow and Angelica do have a past that is brought up in a comedic way throughout the film. The way the two characters discuss this and discuss what exactly happened is captivating.
Despite the movie being over two hours it is paced in such a way that it never becomes boring. If a film is going to be over two hours it has to be able to hold the audience’s attention for the film’s entirety. This film is successful at doing just that.
The one thing that the other three Pirates movies were able to do was have that one scene that made the audience want to stand up and cheer. The Kraken in the second Pirates or the climax in the third film where the audience is charmed by Calypso, where is that scene in this Pirates film? It just is not there. Moreover, I am reaching the point where I am growing tired of defending 3D, the 3D in this particular film is once again not necessary. What makes it even worse is this film has major star power, Depp, Cruz, and Rush, it does not need to use the 3D in order to turn a profit. This movie will make more than budget, no doubt about that. Forcing fans of the franchise to pay the extra three dollars is hard to justify in this movies case.
It is always necessary to have a love story in film? The more films I see the more I am beginning to realize that the answer is yes. At the half way point of the film, a love story is introduced between a missionary named Phillip Swift (Sam Clafin) and a mermaid named Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and the angle is poorly written and sloppily introduced. At no point throughout the film can the audience sympathize with Phillip’s desire for falling in love with Syrena. Furthermore, at first the audience is lead to think that Philip is showing compassion, however, compassion turns to love within a two minute period. Love stories in films are difficult to write for they need time to be developed in order to make them believable. In the case of the love story in this movie it is rushed and underdeveloped. Philip’s character is also inconsistent when it comes to his accent. In some scenes he is English, than in others he is Irish. These problems are more evidence as to why his character only adds problems to the film as a whole.
Pirates is a Disney production which means that there movies are family films. This has never worked for this series because they are supposed to be about cutthroat pirates who are ruthless and evil when it comes to fighting and killing. This becomes even more apparent in the fighting scenes because you do not see any blood. I am not saying that these particular films have to be layered with gore and blood. However, no blood takes away from the realism especially when you have people being stabbed to death. How can the audience believe these people are dead? I just want to make the point that it is not the filmmakers fault because this is a Disney film. Furthermore, to make up for this Marshall decides to shoot the fighting scenes close so the audience can become more involved with the characters that are fighting. Despite Marshall’s best intentions this does not work because the audience has a difficult time distinguishing who is who in the fight scenes.
Overall the movie is not bad but unfortunately it is not very good either. I do like the mythos of Pirates for it can provide for some interesting story ideas for films. However, the series is beginning to lose steam and show its age. Despite strong performances and good intentions this Pirates movie comes up short. The money grab of 3D, the lack of exciting moments, the unnecessary love story, and unconvincing fight sequences hurt this film. If you must see it, see it 2D.