Guest blogger The Missing Man is back and this time he rolled in with the tides for his review of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. You can compare my review with his after your done.
I had an extra day off after getting back from vacation, so some friends and I decided to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011). Like most people (and most reviewers) after the disappointing third installment of the "Pirates" franchise, I was a little concerned that seeing "Stranger Tides" at the theatre would be a waste of my money. After all, both Thor and X-Men: First Class are also out and if I wanted to wait a couple of weeks, I could go see Green Lantern. However, Captain Jack not only beckoned me but my movie companions as well, so it was off in search of the Fountain of Youth for the lot of us.
It's hard to say that I was disappointed when I didn't really expect much. It was better than "At World's End" but the film didn't do justice to the original "Pirates" film Curse of the Black Pearl.
What did I like?
Johnny Depp is always entertaining and he plays the narcissistic, corrupt, yet amazingly "loveable" Captain Jack with his best panache. No guy has ever worn eye makeup better.
The action sequences were passable and required, the two most noteworthy was Jack's romp around the streets of London and the "attack of the Mermaids" (and if you have any romantic or lusty fantasies about mermaids, the "chickens of the sea" served up in "Stranger Tides" will just about kill them dead...except for one, but I'm getting to that).
This film once again reunites Captain Sparrow with his arch-nemesis Captain Barbossa (played wonderfully by Geoffery Rush), this time out to gain the secrets of the Fountain of Youth for the King of England (or does he have an ulterior motive?).
I guess Disney thought it was high time for Captain Sparrow (I have to say "Captain Sparrow" rather than just "Sparrow" or "Jack", since he gets kind of offended when I don't), to have a (jilted) girlfriend, so they introduced Angelica Malon (played by Penelope Cruz). I couldn't figure out if she loved Sparr...Captain Jack or hated him (or both), but I think the character had trouble deciding that for herself, too. Captain Jack only admitted to having "stirrings" and not quite "feelings". Then again, he's not exactly the romantic type, unless you include how much he loves himself.
What I didn't like.
The film is entertaining and a good way to kill 136 minutes, but that's really about it. The scale is smaller than any of the films in the first trilogy (rumor has it that "Stranger Tides" may be the first of a second "Pirates" trilogy). I asked my movie companions and we all reached the same conclusion. This isn't a film that you either love or hate, but one where everyone will leave the theatre feeling "OK". I actually did laugh outloud at least twice during the film, usually at something Captain Jack said or did, but I wasn't rolling in the aisles as it were.
Apparently Disney felt they needed an additional romantic angle besides Jack (Captain) and Angelica, something more "pure", something in the vein of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth swann (Keira Knightly), so they invented, uh, introduced the characters of the Missionary Philip (Sam Claflin) and the Mermaid (I kid you not) Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). Their relationship wasn't quite as "straightforward" as Will's and Elizabeth's, seeing as how Philip is human and a Christian Missionary and Syrena is a mix of man-eating (and not in a good way) human and fishy underbits.
Nevertheless, Syrena is the only mermaid in the film that didn't try to have seamen and seafood and Philip did have pity on her after she was captured by Blackbeard, even though he was the one who stabbed her in the tail.
Syrena and Philip didn't "insert" well into the film. Rather than being an integral part of the storyline, they seemed like a poor, frayed patch over a rather large plot hole, left behind by the departure of Bloom's and Knightly's characters. I could see what Disney was going for and I wished it had worked, but unfortunately, Claflin and Berges-Frisbey just didn't add that much to the film. Too bad, because Berges-Frisbey has an intense, almost other-worldly beauty (at the tender age of 24 when she played the part and turning 25 just a few days ago) that made her fairly believable as a mermaid.
Ian McShane turns in a good performance as Blackbeard (yeah, that Blackbeard) and I have to admit, when the Spanish turn up at the Fountain (there are three different interests racing to get to the Fountain at the same time...go figure), they surprised me by their reaction. I kind of doubt weather, under the circumstances, any person or group would have been that noble.
Keith Richards does a cameo as Captain Teague (Captain Jack's father) but except for the "hey, that's cool" reaction, it was a wasted trip for Richards.
What's the secret of the Fountain of Youth? Does Jack become immortal (he had a shot at that one in the previous film)? Whatever happened to the Black Pearl? And where the heck is that damn monkey?
I won't tell. If you want to find out, they're all in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. It's not a great film, but it's good. I have a rather dark feeling that it may be better than some of the other hopefuls that have been or are about to be released this summer.
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