Pirates of the Caribbean–On Stranger Tides



By Gary “Blue Beard” Murray


Starring Johnny Depp Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane


Written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio


Directed by Rob Marshall


Running time 2 hrs 20 min


MPAA Rating PG-13


Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE


I absolutely love the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  It had the right mix of action and adventure with just a smidgen of romance to keep all cylinders running.  There was this wonderful blend of magic and ghost pirates that kept one guessing until the very end. 


I am not such a big fan of the next two outings.   Though there were some great elements, the films felt more like a series of stunts tied together with a threadbare plot.  The fourth installment of the series brings back Captain Jack Sparrow and a host of new characters.  It also brings back much of the magic from the first film.


One again Johnny Depp plays our captain.  The film starts out with a couple of sailors who find a man in their fishing nets.  He is clutching a book filled with maps.  When taken to the King of Spain, it is instantly discovered that the book is a series of directions to get to the Fountain of Youth.  An expedition is formed.


In England, Captain Jack Sparrow is being tried for a host of pirating crimes.  But, the English have arrested the wrong man.  The real Jack Sparrow leads a daring rescue of his crewman.  It is the first big action sequence of the piece.  We get swinging from the balconies and chandeliers, swords clanking and jumps over and upon carriages.  It is the first of many magical scenes.


Once Jack escapes, he meets up with his father (Keith Richards actually playing a part and not a cameo); he finds that there is another Jack Sparrow who is recruiting a pirate crew.  Jack confronts this faker and discovers one of the big plot points of the film (no spoiler here).


Eventually Jack ends upon the ship of Black Beard (Ian McShane), run by his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz).  The ship is also going to find the Fountain of Youth.  We also find that Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is now peg legged and has lost the Black Pearl. On the plus side, he has become a respected captain of an English Fleet vessel.  He is being sent by His Majesty to find that same fountain. 


It becomes a race by these three groups to find the different elements needed for the fountain of youth.  That list includes mermaid tears and two special silver cups.  The film is both a race and a scavenger hunt.


As much as one misses Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, Penelope Cruz is just a winning presence and equal foil to Johnny Depp.  She is the woman who both hates and loves Captain Jack and she is the one woman he can never get out of his mind.  They have epic battles both physically and verbally.  She is a much needed addition to the Pirates mix and a major reason the film works so well. 


Johnny Depp can do no wrong in his role as Captain Jack Sparrow.  He still has that same Oscar nominated swagger in a performance that is part of the lexicon of cinema.  This is the role that he will be most remembered for in decades to come.  Still the pirate with the most sea smarts, he knows to instinctively do the right action.


While Ian McShane’s Black Beard comes across as a zombie controlling threat, everyone knows that the true pirate is Barbossa.  With his new handicap, he comes across not as challenged but as more menacing.  The struggle between the captains leads to some epic challenges. 


The mermaids are a CGI miracle, shapely lasses with wicked ways and pointed teeth.  The work done by computer film professionals is truly seamless now and their work should be noted by every film fan.  The scene where one sees just how vicious the mermaids can be will scare just about every patron.


There are some slight problems with this edition of Pirates.  One of the big sword fights is shot with heavy dark back lighting, with the two sword fighters working in the shadows.  It has to be that way not to give a major plot point but the effect is just irritating.  Some of the sets seem as if they are taken from the back-lot of an old studio and not from a $100 million major summer draw.  But these are at the most minor distractions. 


Pirates of the Caribbean—On Stranger Tides is not as good as the original but much better than the other two installments.  If one is looking for a sea faring journey and cannot make it to the coast, this is the next best thing. 


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