Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesTrailers
Captain Jack Sparrow crosses paths with a woman from his past, and he's not sure if it's love -- or if she's a ruthless con artist who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard, Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn't know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.
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Of all the sequels to the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, this was the most meh. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad movie. But it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a good one. So this film finds itself stuck in the middle.Acting, once again, was fantastic, the music was great, and the effects were beautiful. The plot, once again, though, is what killed it.The main flaw of the movie is that it doesn't feel like a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and more like a spin off adventure. This probably happens because it lacks several characters who had major roles in the last movie. Case in point: Will Turner, Elizabeth Swan, Pintel, and Ragetti. These are the characters who seemed to be missing from the movie. Of course, there were others, such as Davy Jones, but most of those characters are dead, and even though that didn't stop Barbosa, bringing back Davy Jones would be flat out illogical. The rest of the movie was pretty good, but the fact that it remained so unfaithful to the other movies makes this one feel less like a proper movie, and more like a Netflix spin off.
When Gore Verbinski wrapped up his Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy with the massive, climactic epic, At World's End, it felt like the end of an era. The history built up between the characters was brought to a head and completely resolved by the closing credits. And yet, with more money to be had, a fourth movie was commisioned. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides suffers mightily in comparison to Gore Verbinski's iconic trilogy. It is lacking in energy and style, and the new cast of characters are uninspired. Still, On Stranger Tides gets the job done competently. This is a serviceably entertaining comic adventure with some fun set-pieces and beautiful scenery. Taken on it's own merits, it works as a nice bonus adventure for the series.The story is the antithesis to At World's End's sprawling complexity. Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, The English, The Spanish, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz), are on the trail of the Fountain of Youth, all with their own motivations for getting there. The rules and regulations of the fountain's mystical powers require a good bit of side quests (finding two silver chalices, capturing a mermaid's tear, etc.), but On Stranger Tides' story is dramatically slimmed down from all three previous movies.On the one hand, I liked the decision to shed the extra narrative weight. It would have been impossible to try to top the epic richness of At World's End, so scaling down makes perfect sense. However, what On Stranger Tides loses in narrative fat, it also loses in charm, personality, and energy. Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann may have seemed like dead weight at times in the first three movies, but their exclusion here makes you appreciate what they brought to the series. They were the straight men among the colorful ensemble cast, directing the story forward and allowing Jack Sparrow and the rest to find that sweet spot on the peripheries of the story. With On Stranger Tides, most of the characters from the previous entries are gone, and the show is run by Jack Sparrow in as close to a standard "hero" role as he's had in the series. There is no getting around it, things just feel lonely without that crew we grew to love over the trilogy. The cast around Captain Jack lacks the personality of the first three films. Everybody fulfills a standard archetype, nothing more, nothing less. Aside from Cruz's Angelica, who has a great sultry chemistry with Depp, the cast is forgettable. Even Ian McShane's Blackbeard seems like a discount Barbossa from the first movie. His ship, The Queen Anne's Revenge is a beautifully designed set, but it's big hook is that Blackbeard's magic sword can control its ropes and shoot fire from the hull. Compared to The Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman, it's pretty lame. That feeling seems to extend to the production design and action as well. Where this series used to savor the opportunities for unique creature designs and action set-pieces, On Stranger Tides coasts along well worn territory. There's nothing wrong with zombies or carriage chases or any of the other adventure clichés that are trotted out in the film, but nothing is particularly inspired. The mermaids are the most unique of the new additions in the creature department, and they're well-rendered, but like the rest of On Stranger Tides' design elements, they don't add up to much. Everything looks nice individually, but I can't say I was swept up in the world the same way I was in Verbinski's Trilogy.Rob Marshall, as director, proves that not just anybody can bring to these stories the type of crowd-pleasing excitement that Gore Verbinski brought to his trilogy. The action scenes are fun, but the rhythm and cadence is somehow off. Verbinski seamlessly merged humor with action and he filmed his action scenes with a palpable sense of zest for filmmaking. Marshall's action scenes move along jauntily from beat to beat, but the humor therein lurches forward and back when it should blend with the thrills. I liked the opening chase and the first swordfight between Angelica and Jack, and the rest of the set-pieces are functional, but none of the action quite reaches Verbinski-level excitement. The climactic final fight in the Fountain of Youth in particular is deficient. Compare it to the similar finale of Curse of the Black Pearl. That scene was so full of life, with sweeping camera moves, a roaring score, and the enthusiastic vigor of the cast. It was heaven for an adventure enthusiast like myself. Tides' scene is dead in comparison. It boasts a beautiful set and good fight choreography, but that alone is not enough to bring an action scene to life. As disappointing as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides can be, I still found myself satisfied with it as a straightforward adventure. I was particularly impressed with the tropical locations, which are often jaw-droppingly beautiful. The jungles, beaches, and caves are bright and vibrant and alluring. If you get nothing else from On Stranger Tides, at the very least, you get to see some very pretty landscapes. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a smaller, less exciting movie than the first three, and I can't believe that this relatively low energy romp was directed by the same man who gave us the vivaciously dynamic Chicago, but if you think of this movie as a sort of side quest in the Pirates series, it does the job. The simple tale of the voyage to the Fountain of Youth provides ample amounts of what makes adventure movies fun: lush scenery, polished production design, humor, and thrills. Held against Verbinski's brilliant trilogy, it doesn't hold up, but as a kind of Pirates DLC, it's comfortably satisfying. 72/100