Ridin' the wrong current
It’s highly ironic that Pirates of the Caribbean is delving into ideas of immortality, especially considering that the story arc was wrapped up nicely at the conclusion of At Worlds End. So it is that the fourth instalment, On Stranger Tides, sees Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) tag along with his former lover Angelica (Penélope Cruz) and the fearsome Blackbeard (Ian McShane) to find the Fountain of Youth. It sounds like yet another grand adventure with our favourite pirates, but considering the façade of non-stop action and weak storylines the previous two instalments brought forth it sounds like they’re trying to save the franchise from dying out.
There’s no sign of Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley, who drove the romance throughout the series and were pivotal to the progression of the drama and storyline. Director Rob Marshall instead brings Cruz into the picture, using her seductive nature as Angelica to throw another wrench in the works for Sparrow. This only proves to be a disaster as the chemistry between the two is weak and lacking in depth – we already knew Depp’s character wasn’t intended for romance, so why bother now? More laughable though is the inclusion of the missionary Phillip Swift (Sam Claftin) and the mermaid nicknamed Syrena (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey in her first English role), who both make a poor attempt to mimic the Bloom-Knightley romance. Diving headfirst into a love without a proper development of the emotions between the characters is only a sign of the rushed nature of the film.
Whilst we’ve seen quite a bit of Depp’s character hog the limelight, it’s always welcoming to hear the iconic voice of Jack Sparrow amidst the clamour of swashbuckling sword battles and parley exchanges. McShane is also interesting, borrowing inspiration from Tim Powers’ novel On Stranger Tides to illuminate the screen with his fearsome display of malice. But the supporting cast is something of a worry; they are nothing more than forgettable and bland, almost posing as fillers rather than actual characters. Throw them in with the love story that goes off on a tangent, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
All of this can be interpreted as a sign that it might be time for the franchise to call it quits and move on; with gross revenue hitting the billion mark worldwide and a number of awards under its belt, it’s had a pretty good run. But this latest instalment is nothing short of an embarrassment, dragging its feet through the entire 2 hours and almost gutting the series as a whole along the way. Immortality is one thing, but for a film like this it’s out of the question.