|Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides movie poster. Image property of Walt Disney Studios.|
I have to admit that I was very nervous going into the fourth Pirates movie. I love Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow—what a character!—and I’ve always thought the movies were a lot of fun, but for some reason a fourth one just seemed… unnecessary. Then the reviews came in and critic after critic hated it. A couple of friends said things like, “it was long” or “it was a snooze,” which isn’t exactly the most promising praise. Even some random sales clerk at a retail store told me, “If you go in thinking you’re going to hate it, you might actually like it. A little.”
So I’ll say it again. I was very nervous going into the theater. But I have to say that I didn’t find it to be all that bad. In fact, I thought it was really enjoyable and fun. Director Rob Marshall did a pretty good job, in my opinion.
Johnny Depp returns as Jack Sparrow, who runs into an old flame of his named Angelica (Penelope Cruz) who happens to be impersonating him to recruit a pirate crew. Why does she need a crew? Well she and her father—the infamous Blackbeard (Ian McShane)—are in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth. Sparrow soon finds himself onboard the “Queen Anne’s Revenge” along with “zombified” pirates, being forced to help Blackbeard and Angelica in their quest. It’s kind of hard to say no to a guy who can control the ship with a touch of his sword and control your actions with the pin prick of a voodoo doll.
Blackbeard needs to get to the Fountain of Youth because there is a prophecy that he will die by the hand of a one-legged man, that man being no other than Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) of the previous films. Barbossa seems to have given up on pirating and is now sailing under the British flag. You see, the English are now interested in getting to the Fountain of Youth simply because they know the Spanish are going. They are determined to beat them there and claim it as their own. Barbossa however has more personal reasons of getting to the fountain. He lost his leg when Blackbeard took control of the ship, The Black Pearl, and he now seeks revenge. He’s even coated his sword with poison from a frog… he’s ready.
So everyone is off towards the Fountain of Youth! In order to obtain eternal life from the fountain, the tears of a mermaid are required. And I have to say, I loved the mermaids! They were beautiful and whimsical, seducing the men and luring them closer… before turning into vicious, fanged monsters! Very cool. They manage to catch one of them, Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who seems to be a lot more docile than the others. She has fallen for the missionary Philip (Sam Claflin) whom Angelica has brought along in the hopes that he will convert her father to Catholicism. Philip develops feelings toward the mermaid as well, and is the only one upset that they are treating her harshly to get what they want out of her.
Speaking of missionaries and Catholicism, the movie has a lot of religious things to say. It talks about faith and salvation, which seemed a little too deep for a Pirates movie. Of course, the movie also has voodoo and mermaids and fables as well. I guess it’s just interesting to see the Christian and the Pagan beliefs interwoven together.
All in all, I felt like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides lived up to the film franchise. It fit right in. There was over-the-top swashbuckling, plenty of cheeky laughs, fantasy elements and a little bit of romance. Rush and Depp were great in their roles as always. Although I've seen Cruz in more interesting roles, I thought she brought a lot of energy to the movie and she and Depp had some great chemistry. The story might have been a little disjointed, but I found that it wasn’t nearly as confusing as the previous sequels and for the most part pretty straight-forward. The action was well-choreographed if not a little noisy with the constant scoring, but I’ll forgive its overuse of music. I also didn’t miss Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley. Like, at all. And casting Richard Griffiths as King George really made my day! Very funny. Sure, it’s not nearly as fantastic as the first Pirates movie, but it was a fun adventure that I didn’t mind going on.
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