Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Movie Review


Once again showing that Disney are keen to milk every possible cent/penny/golden-curse-laden-doubloon out of their most popular filmic adventures, the studio will soon be releasing Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides; another adventure-by-numbers affair starring Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands) as the whimsical yet wobbly pirate Captain Jack Sparrow.

On Stranger Tides finds Jack once again at the centre of a heated race-against-time to find an illustrious object the entire world has suddenly got the hots for; in this case, the legendary (and supposedly nigh-unfindable) Fountain of Youth, which appears to have been simultaneously located by everyone from differing teams of pirates, to the Spanish nobility, and the King of England (Richard Griffiths, Harry Potter) himself, all of whom wish to claim the prize for themselves.

But being a Pirates of the Caribbean picture (now the fourth movie in the franchise, and the third sequel to re-use the same tired formula which only really worked for the first movie), the race wouldn’t be complete without its share of tasks, trials, sailing, swordplay, mystery, backstabbing, double-dealing, chases, getaways, and supernatural goings on; which this time come from not only the fountain, but zombified pirates, and man-eating mermaids.

Jack’s put to the test, against all of these, at the hands of the dreaded pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane, Deadwood); “the pirate all pirates fear”; and his daughter (who happens to be Jack’s ex-lover) Angelica (Penelope Cruz, Blow); who force Jack aboard their ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge to direct them along their way, and help them beat everyone else to the prize, in time to escape a prophecy which sees Blackbeard dying at the hands of a now peg-legged Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech); the old crew-mate/enemy of Jack’s, who pops up once again with Jack’s longtime friend Gibbs (Kevin McNally, Entrapment).

Barbossa and Gibbs aren’t the only familiar faces who crop up though, as we’re also ‘treated’ to seeing the brief return of The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards; as Jack’s father Captain Teague; get a couple of shots of The Black Pearl’s monkey, and even a surprisingly brief cameo from Dame Judi Dench (Casino Royale); all of whom fill around 30 seconds of screen-time before the next sword-fight, chase sequence, supernatural battle, or cliff jump, surfaces, as throughout the entire film there can be no more than four sentences uttered between each of the highly choreographed action sequences that ensues.

Yet the frequency of the action isn’t the problem with On Stranger Tides; in fact there are moments where the action is superbly shot, wonderfully lit, downright tense and thoroughly gripping (the exceedingly dark scene where Blackbeard has his crew attempt to apprehend a mermaid; which turns into a kind of Jaws homage; is easily the best thing about the film); it’s just so obvious that the movie is completely soulless, lacks any character development or real sense of plot, and has only been produced to bring Disney another stupidly large payday, that nobody really cares about what happening, or feels any sense of danger when watching.

We all know that Johnny Deep is the only man who could play Jack Sparrow; and he does so once again in the same manner that burred the character into the hearts of millions of fans; only his OTT nature is beginning to become more noticeable, and starting to grate, in the more directionless sequels, and while he’s been well directed here (by Chicago’s Rob Marshall), and is surrounded by fine actors (Geoffrey Rush is as entertaining as ever, Penelope Cruz is as fiery as needs be, and while Ian McShane is clearly a fine actor he’s unfortunately not given much to do other than occasionally look mean), On Stranger Tides does leave you wondering… how many more films can be sold on the premise of Jack Sparrow returning alone?

On Stranger Tides isn’t a bad movie however, far from it; kids will love this action packed sequel to not only a fan favourtie, but a favourite franchise of movie-lovers everywhere; it’s got great actors, a supremely fast pace, plenty of hilariously funny comic moments, and most importantly, Jack Sparrow. On Stranger Tides is also easily the best film since the breakout original, doesn’t fall into any of the dismal trappings of At World’s End (being neither as infuriatingly dull or as incessantly incomprehensible as its predecessor), and is guaranteed to entertain any Pirates fan; if you didn’t like the previous Pirates of the Caribbean movies then this offers nothing new to entice you to the series, but if you enjoyed the other films, you’ll have a blast watching Jack set sail On Stranger Tides.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is due to be released in the UK on May 18th, before making its US release date on May 20th, and you can find all the latest information, clips, and trailers, for the film here.

Matt Wheeldon.

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Matt Wheeldon is the Founder, and Editor in Chief of Good Film Guide. He still refers to the cinema as "the pictures", and has what some would describe as a misguided appreciation for Waterworld.