Thursday, 19 May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Dir. Rob Marshall

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ should effectively be renamed ‘The Captain Jack Sparrow Show’ as the fourth film in the always popular pirate franchise is nothing more than a two-hour vehicle for Johnny Depp to show off all his talent and charm, which eventually wears thin after the first hour of the film. Aside from the world on Depp’s shoulders, the plot is disjointed and the rest of the crew are mere puppets to Depp’s act.

While the first three films were concerned with the antagonist Davy Jones and Sparrow’s one ship the Black Pearl, ‘On Stranger Tides’ is a more straight-forward, linear action-adventure film with Captain Jack Sparrow becoming involuntarily part of the heinous pirate Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) sailing staff to help them find the mythical ‘fountain of youth’. Also on the ship is the empowered primary commander Angelica, who is the First Mate in charge of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, while a few other characters from the previous films make their presence noted in the form of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Lieutenant Groves (Greg Ellis), Lieutenant Gillette (Damian O’Hare) and Captain Teague (Keith Richards).

The plot resonates throughout the film in a very stereotypical manner, Jack Sparrow makes a wise-cracking joke, this results in a chase or fight sequence, which is then promptly ended before the journey continues and the same sequence is repeated over and over again in a slightly different location. Until the final ten minutes of the film, nothing new is not attempted nor is nothing old expanded upon, Rob Marshall has certainly taken the safe route of throwing together a recognisable, albeit fragmented, formula and hoping the audience will jump on board for over two hours. For the fans of the film franchise this will most likely work, to ordinary cinema patrons; boredom ahoy!

Another flaw is in the form of introducing the missionary Philip Swift (Sam Claflin), unlike the previous three instalments in which Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) provide the crux of the film’s morality and principles, in ‘Stranger Tides’ there is no character in the primary cast who can accomplish this, so Swift’s story and subsequent relationship seems to have been hastily thrust into the plot with no regards for how undeniably boring and tedious it actually is. He therefore attempts to also add a bit of humility and humanity among the blood-thirsty pirates and the psychopathic Blackbeard, but with his little screen time and over-acting this is never accomplished and the promising English actor becomes nothing more than a kind religious zealot with a muscular abdomen.

Despite Depp’s persistent and continual screen time, he does still provide adequate comedic relief, his best wisecracks seem to appear at the very moment when the plot and story seem to be slowing down, but neither the script, direction or rest of the cast and crew do anything else to keep this fourth film from being anything less than a cinematic sinking ship. It will no doubt quite easily gross it’s estimated two-hundred million dollar budget back within the next four weeks, and subsequently facilitate a fifth film in the franchise, but ‘On Stranger Tides’ is definitely the weakest effort in the ‘Pirates’ series so far.
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