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Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Film review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), directed by Rob Marshall

potc-onstrangertidesAn excited whisper flows through the air around the world: Jack’s back! He’s left most of the trilogy’s cast behind, and the fourth instalment of the pirate saga, On Stranger Tides is free-standing, so if you’ve missed any of the trilogy movies, it doesn’t really matter. Just jump in, plenty of room for everyone.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is in London to try and get Gibbs (Kevin McNally) out of jail. In a twist of events, he ends up at King George’s (Richard Griffiths – Harry Potter’s Mr. Dursley to a lot of us) court. The Spanish king is determined to find the Fountain of Youth, and Britain can’t just let them have it. The king offers Jack one of the Crown’s ships along with a captain, namely … Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who has lost both a leg and the Black Pearl. NOT good business at all, arrrrr!

Jack makes his way to the exit and decides to go looking for someone claiming to be him in search of a crew. To search for a crew, you normally need a ship, and with the Pearl gone, Jack is in need of one of those. He ends up on Queen Anne’s Revenge, the infamous ship of the even more infamous captain Blackbeard (Ian “Lovejoy” McShane). Blackbeard wants to find the Fountain because of a prophecy – he’ll meet his end by a one-legged man …

Together with a motley crew of smelly pirates (the only one named being Scrum, played by Stephen Graham), Blackbeard and his beautiful first mate Angelica (Penélope Cruz), and Bible-thumping Philip (Sam Claflin), Jack races across the seas to find the Fountain before both Barbossa and the Spanish.

They also manage to pick up a mermaid on the way (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) so there can be romantic tension between her and Philip, as we no longer have Will and Elizabeth on board. I’m not sure exactly how she managed to get legs, if it was Blackbeard wielding his magic cutlass (if it’s not a cutlass but another kind of sword-looking device to the initiated, I don’t really care – “cutlass” sounds more piratey).

Even with guest appearances by Keith Richards (as Sparrow’s dear ol’ daddy-o) and Judi Dench (surprise!), there’s no way around the fact that Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is not as good as its predecessors. It’s entertaining, certainly, and Jack is as nutty and funny as he’s ever been, but the plot is predictable and there were a few times where I was thinking “bored now” or believing I noticed a hint of “I’m just doing this movie because the kids love it” in Johnny Depp’s eyes.

I enjoyed the romance between Philip and mermaid Syrena. It was tender yet painful. The one between Angelica and Jack … I don’t know to be honest. The banter between them and the hints of their past was amusing, and it’s interesting to see a new side of Jack, but at the same time … did we really need that? Wasn’t he just fine the way he was? The tension between him and Elizabeth previously was good because it left it at tension, since she was in love with Will. Here, there’s nothing to counteract it and I’m just not watching PotC because of the love story. Sorry. As much as I’m a sucker for romance, I watch PotC for the swashbuckling comedy adventures.

Fortunately, on that note, it definitely delivers. There’s action, magic, swordfights, guns, waterfalls, pirate treasures, caves and all manner of things going on. It’s just that you can see everything coming a mile off. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know who the impostor is, for instance. But you’ll definitely be entertained. Yes, Jack is funny with his quirks and one-liners and trying to balance on top of carriages careening through London and everything. Let’s not kid ourselves here, that’s why we’re all going to see this movie. Everyone loves a bit o’ Jack Sparrow, after all.

Question is, how long can Disney keep up the Jack Show? Are there enough adventures left in these characters to make a fifth movie? I wouldn’t be surprised, but we’ll see how this one does at the box office before we start counting our pieces of eight. If they do make a fifth movie, I’ll be happy to wait until it comes out on DVD. Cinema is expensive nowadays.

Oh, and this is also the first time we’ve been to the Showcase Deluxe Cinema in Derby. Nice venue, the shopping centre it’s in beats the two we have in Nottingham hands down, but the restaurant next to the cinema was a real let-down. The eggs were overcooked and green around the yolks, the green beans were not exactly vibrant in colour and they haven’t got a clue how to cook tuna. The only thing that wasn’t overcooked was the lettuce! But I digress.

3 out of 5 annoying monkeys.

And yes, I kept hearing this song in my head every time I heard the name “Edward Teach”:

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

3 thoughts on “Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (2011)

  1. it’s about time they ditched the rest of the cast. As far as I was concerned Pirates of the Caribbean was complete garbage, except for Jack Sparrow, who was a work of sheer genius.

    Do you feel, ultimately, that this was a truly Jackian film? Or did they wreck his character?

  2. @ifbyyes: I agree (mostly anyway). It’s always been the Jack Show … except my favourite character in 2+3 was Cutler Beckett. *cough* With regards to your question, I’m not sure. Been thinking about it all evening (as I saw your comment just before leaving work). Brought it up when a work colleague said he would see it over the weekend, and we seemed to share the feeling that Jack isn’t really the type to have proper feelings for someone. This movie is FINALLY centred around his character properly – he’s given the most amount of screen time and so on – and he’s lots of fun, but I’m not sure I really buy a future love story. Here, it’s said that he had “stirrings” for her once upon a time, but he wouldn’t call them “feelings” as such. Still, the way he acted towards her was not like someone who was completely unfeeling. Probably wouldn’t say he’s wrecked as a character, only slightly … bent in a strange way.

    @Joanna: Oh yes! 😀 Judi Dench is only in it for about 30 seconds or so (in a carriage), but it was a nice surprise.

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