PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
**** (out of 5)
May 20, 2011
Johnny Depp as JACK SPARROW
Penelope Cruz as ANGELICA
Geoffrey Rush as BARBOSSA
Ian McShane as BLACKBEARD
Kevin McNally as GIBS
Sam Claflin as PHILIP
Directed by: Rob Marshall
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Fanboys are fickle. They’re not only fickle about the series they love, but also about the series they didn’t really like that much in the first time. After all, if they can turn into catty sorority girls with the “Star Wars” prequels and the fourth Indiana Jones movie, should we expect anything more from them with “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The reason the so-called “fan reaction” to these movies is prefacing this review is because, like the third film which couldn’t be effectively reviewed without making note of how secretive Disney was of the plot, it’s impossible to react to many major releases without at least taking note of the current buzz.
And the buzz for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” hasn’t been that good… at least from the critical perspective.
But we must always remember that fanboys are fickle, and the other two “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels carry RottenTomatoes.com ratings of 54% for “Dead Man’s Chest” and 45% for “At World’s End.” Can we really trust what the critics (including me, I suppose) have to say about it?
I approached this latest installment in the franchise as a fan of big summer movies more than I did a critic. After all, the only reason I wanted to see this was to be entertained. And by that standard, the movie hits it out of the park.
The story follows Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who has been charged with finding (or rather re-finding) the Fountain of Youth. While his best mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally) has been put under the command of the now-legitimate Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack takes off with a pirate crew led by his former flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and the legendary Blackbeard (Ian McShane).
If you’re expecting something exactly like the previous three movies, you’ll be a bit disappointed. The story is far more straightforward with fewer twists. This is good, though, considering it’s nowhere near as convoluted as the third film was. It’s also much brighter, not just in palate but in tone. Under the direction of Rob Marshall, who is probably best known for his work on the Oscar winning film “Chicago,” the world in which these pirates inhabit is more saturated than the murky grays that plagued the first two sequels.
Also, because this is a new story that does not continue the saga of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, it focuses more on Jack. Instead of being the Han Solo of the film, who happens to be prominent but a rogue element, he’s the hero who must complete a journey. Personally, I enjoyed this, since we all know Jack’s a good guy at heart. But fans of the ambiguous gray character of Jack Sparrow might be a bit disappointed.
On the whole, I really enjoyed the cast. Depp looks a little tired of his Jack Sparrow character, but like I said before, he’s carrying the film rather than providing comic relief and a diversion. But he’s balanced out well with Geoffrey Rush, and Ian McShane is spectacular as the pirate villain. Finally, Penelope Cruz may not be my favorite actress working today, but she does look quite fetching in her pirate hat, wielding a cutlass.
Like the James Bond or Indiana Jones series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is not so much a continuation of previous films but more a new story and surrounding for a few familiar characters. I appreciated that because Will and Elizabeth’s story was overdone already in the other films.
The 3D element of the film was quite good as well, considering it went through a post-conversion process for effects after being shot with 3D cameras. This post-conversion technique is getting quite good and, while it’s not at the level where it can replace shot-and-rendered-for-3D, it helps add to the adventure. Though I can’t say it’s necessarily worth the extra $5 or so you’ll have to pay for it.
In the end, I enjoyed “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” quite possibly more than the other two sequels. It was a fun family adventure worthy of the Disney pedigree it boasts.