Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides
Its a telling title for this Pirates movie. Has the tide turned and can the roller coaster ride from Disney sustain a fourth journey around the themepark? This time we have a 3D ride which is still the going fad with a number of movies particularly from the Disney stable. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are out probably due to fame having a cost and we have a fresh injection of talent from Penélope Cruz and Ian McShane. Old friends like Kevin McNally as first mate Gibbs and a turncoat role for Geoffrey Rush keep the tone of familiarity in the cast. Rob Marshall has taken over the directing chair from Gore Verbinski and the ride kicks into gear eight years after the first voyage aboard the Black Pearl.
Despite the lack of previous star talent, the key ingredients for a Pirates movie are still part of the mixing pot. While I may sound a little cynical at first on the 3D factor this was a movie where it sat comfortably in the myriad of scenes from open vessel seascapes to the dark interior shots and amongst the jungle fight scenes. It was used sparingly for a few ‘jump out of the screen’ pieces and used well at those points. Like any Pirate story there needs to be a treasure, a fight and a damsel. The ultimate treasure sought on this voyage and to which only Jack knows the way, is the illusive fountain of youth. One of the characters believes the end is nigh unless they can reach the goal and drink the water of eternal life. Of course there has to be more than one team racing and in this edition we have two pirate teams, His Majesty’s navy and the Spaniards with a head start. All up it makes for a crowded finish line but who wins? Now not to give any spoilers its still not quite the same as Harrison Ford’s dance with the Holy Grail in the third Indiana Jones movie and there will be winners and losers.
So how does this Pirates movie compare with its predecessors in providing a little drama? This might be a mild spoiler but I’m going to say that when Blackbeard is upstaged by the Mermaids you know its a problem. Ian McShane is just not sinister in the evil overlord role and despite a few magic tricks he just doesn’t come across as the death by numbers kind of guy. Come on this is a guy who had the role of Lovejoy in the 80s! Back to the Nightmare on Elf Street, and those fantasyful mermaids have got hold of some nasty DNA. Remember Ariel from a previous Disney animated mermaid movie. Well these finned and scaly chicks will put you off cute cartoon mermaids and fish fingers for life!
While Penélope Cruz helps provide the on screen ooze factor in the role of Blackbeard’s daughter, Angelica, it is the tried and true combination of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) that provide the cement in a story that was never meant to be taken seriously. Come on, when you ride a roller coaster you don’t come off the ride and write a drivers review on how it handled in the corners or how responsive the steering was. In the same way the story was never meant to be more than excuse for a fun ride. The slippery personality of Jack Sparrow is evident in every aspect of the movie. No plot could tie him down. In fact one part reminded me of Steve Oedekerk’s ThumbWars where Princess Bunhead says; “I escaped somehow”. The story had more continuity in the consistency of mascara and eye make-up than on a thread of a plot or the realism of each scenario.
It has to be said though that the story sets sail amongst a vibrant sea shanty of a score which has to be one of the unsung heroes of the Pirates of the Caribbean quadrilogy. Hans Zimmer should be given a best supporting actor role as the score on all four movies has captured the heart of a pirate voyage. Driving each scene nicely so that you can feel every wave and transport you from location to location with ease. Director Rob Marshall, you may remember also was behind musical numbers like Annie, Chicago and the recently released Nine, so he has a superb understanding of the importance of music being a character not a backdrop.
Cameos from Dame Judi Dench as a fleeting acquantaince of Sparrow and Keith Richards resuming his role as Captain Jack’s Dad add fun to the journey. All up I enjoyed another voyage on the good ship P.O.T.C and won’t be surprised if they can squeeze one more out of the franchise. Jerry Bruikheimer is a great producer, Johnny Depp hasn’t let the side down and with Geoffrey Rush as his antagonistic side-kick we may see another voyage on the horizon.
Reviewed by: Andrew Pitchford