Yo-ho-ho. A cash cow for Disney. Arguably the most lucrative and
popular financially viable franchise sets sail… again four years following the last outing. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides marks the third sequel, and there may be more yet to come. Why would actors Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, and Johnny Depp want back in? Probably for the same reason series regulars Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom jumped ship. The series has ran its course and claimed plenty of booty, but there are still air pockets of gold left to mine. What life could be left in the franchise? Only the scarcest of signs actually.
Depp is back in full form playing the iconic swashbuckler we all adore. Capt. Jack Sparrow is again a wanted man when he is ordered by the King of England to reunite with Barbossa (Rush) on an expedition to discover and secure the Fountain of Youth. Rumors have been spreading that Jack is assembling a crew in secret to embark on his own journey. Sparrow becomes puzzled by the talk and comes to realize an ex-lover has been impersonating him. Her name is Angelica (Penelope Cruz), and she’s found herself first-mate and daughter to Blackbeard (Ian McShane), a sorcerer of a pirate aboard a ship with supernatural power. Sparrow is duped into joining Angelica and Blackbeard, while Barbossa and his Englishmen as well as enemy Spaniards trail close behind. Along the way, Jack must play for multiple sides—remaining under the watchful eye of Blackbeard while secretly keeping the English under little speculation.
In all honesty, franchise writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio bring little to the table as far as the scale of the journey goes. The film delivers most of its goods within the first 30 minutes as our scurvy hero dodges English capture through a series of elaborate escapes and classic Jack Sparrow antics. Once he meets up with Angelica and hits the seas with Blackbeard, On Stranger Tides loses its stride and becomes an increasingly long lull of weak plot threads. The actual quest for the Fountain of Youth is such a disappointment. I felt as though none of the characters had a genuine interest or drive in finding it. There’s some talk of Blackbeard wanting to find it to potentially save his soul, however, it’s never a pressing matter. Barbossa cares none for it. He wants revenge on a particular foe. Angelica seems to be after it for her father’s sake, but since he doesn’t care so much, why should we? I really don’t think the writers thought this one out.
Making matters worse is the fact that nothing particularly memorable or exciting happens throughout the film. The different groups of treasure hunters encounter a horde of deadly mermaids, but that’s about all the film has to offer audiences that could be considered new or remotely memorable.
This sequel has been directed by Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago). I will commend him on tightening up the story and presenting a much more simple and logical narrative than Gore Verbinski’s last venture At World’s End. However, as disappointing as many audiences found the two-part sequels from 2006 and 2007, I can’t imagine them finding a more refurbished product with On Stranger Tides. ‘Stranger’ this film is not, and if the last two predecessors had anything going for them—it was that they were at least simultaneously odd and interesting, while also boasting several impressive and memorable effects-filled action sequences. The previous chapters were way ahead of On Stranger Tides in terms of creativity, and when they failed, they did so grandly. This chapter storms in and teeters out with little more than a sigh.
Despite the film’s many shortcomings, I can’t fault Depp. He delivers as always, and the Sparrow character still entertains in high fashion. Unfortunately his movies aren’t keeping up with him, and while On Stranger Tides will undoubtedly make less than any of the previous Pirates, there will still be plenty of coin to lap up—warranting audiences another sequel. My suggestion? Ditch Marshall. Bring back the strangeness, the surprise, and the suspense. Savvy?
Last 5 posts by Matt V
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