“Pirates of the Caribbean : On Stranger Tides” Movie Review

   

     Does Jack Sparrow and company deserve a 4th outing? You'll have to decide for yourself, but I feel the series had already run it's course after the two back to back overdone sequels.  While the "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" was a fine film which garnered Johnny Depp an Oscar nomination, the two sequels which followed fell way short.  This made me think. How many quality films can be churned out when the basis for these films is a 60 year old amusement park ride?  Apparently, Disney thinks the sky is the limit because we now have "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides".

     There's no doubt the film will do a bundle of business.  As of this writing it had already found itself in the top five all time worldwide opening weekend grosses.  In order to freshen things up a bit, regulars from the trilogy like Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and the trilogy's director, Gore Verbinski, have been replaced.  Taking their spots are Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, and as the film's director, Rob Marshall (Chicago).  Without a doubt, the additions are welcome, but their impact is limited.  After all, this is Johnny Depp's movie.  Jack Sparrow is in nearly every scene and there is no singular plot device that doesn't include him.

     The story centers around a journey to the location of the Fountain of Youth.  Of course it's never that simple. You'd think one could go to the fountain and drink, thereby receiving the benefits of eternal life, but instead there are a number of obstacles one must overcome first in order to create the proper concoction.  Namely an encounter with a school of Mermaids in order to capture one their tears, a task that proves to be quite difficult.  Then the cocktail must be consumed from two special chalices, but even that's not the end because there's a catch. The benefit one gets is at the expense of the person drinking from the other chalice! Their years add on to you and they immediately die! Good luck getting someone to join you in this adventure!

     As before, the film is loaded with the obligatory chase scenes and sword fight scenes but each is by the numbers.  In a stagecoach chase sequence through London, I think the filmmakers were trying to do something different by having the protagonist involved switching vehicles constantly to try and confuse the enemy.  This reminded me of the basket switching chase sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark which was done in 1981, so for me the attempt at originality fell a bit short. I hate the sword fights in these films because they're all the same. About a dozen groups of no more than two combatants  performing lame, obviously choreographed sword play where no one ever seems to incur a serious injury.  Perhaps the kiddy rating is to blame for that as well as the fact our Mermaids have fish bodies all the way up to their shoulders! I mean, why would a human male have any attraction at all to one of these things? They can't exactly fool them for very long!

     As Black Beard, Ian McShane tries to be a threatening figure and his entrance in the film reveals he has powers beyond a normal man when he is aboard his ship.  He's really not a great evil character though and never once do you ever feel Jack Sparrow is neither threatened by him or put in any real peril by him.  As Black Beard's daughter, Angelica, Penelope Cruz serves as Jack's love interest which I felt was a positive in the film since Jack was a loner in the previous three film's.  As always, the great Geoffrey Rush does a fine job as the pirate turned English soldier Barbossa.

     Basically, what we have here is your garden variety summer tent pole event film.  Like the upcoming third Transformers film, it is produced for one thing and that is to keep the turnstiles turning and get butts of all ages in seats.  For all my criticism, I thought this Pirates film was better than the previous two installments by a hair, but that's not to say I recommend it. I saw the IMAX 3D version and first let me say, as Adam Richman (Man vs Food) says guacamole makes everything taste better, I say IMAX makes every film look and sound better.  3D however, needs to be done properly and with the right film.  Aside from a lot of swords pointed directly at the viewer, Marshall does not take advantage of the medium and thus I suggest you save your money and see the 2D version. The film fails to have the Wow Factor supplied by "Fast Five" a couple weeks ago and feels like just another go around.  With the right franchise, that's not necessarily a recipe for disaster, but rather an exercise that is painfully average. GRADE: C-