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

Sequels, as a rule, tend to degrade in freshness with each film that follows the original. The original Pirates of the Caribbean movie (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl) had action, character interplay and it was original. We didn’t know what to expect from a character like Captain Jack Sparrow. The two sequels that followed had Captain Jack, but also included stories and plots that made no sense. They included some strange pirate politics that also made no sense. Oh… and they had Captain Jack.

When I first heard of a fourth pirate movie, I said, “meh.” Then I saw the trailer and thought, “Hey, it looks like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Apology for the Previous Sequels.” In a sense, I was correct, but also incorrect.

I like the character of Captain Jack played by Johnny Depp. Depp really got to ham up and have fun with the role, or at least he did. The one thing actors love to do is act. However, this fourth time around, it seemed like he was going through the motions and not having as much fun. Whatever energy, joy, and mischief surrounded the character in the first film had become worn and tired in this current film. I suspect the key ingredient missing was for a character that was the anti-Jack, a straight arrow who plays off Jack as each character must work together to fulfill a goal. Jack needed a William Turner. (Turner was the character played by Orlando Bloom.)

Pirates as characters can be a lot of fun to write, act, and direct. They’re scoundrels, cons, thieves, and not necessarily evil or good. They’re pirates. The PotC (Pirates of the Caribbean) pirates are still Disney pirates, and must be family friendly. This means there needs to be a straight character who is the moral compass. Turner was the compass in the first film, then became ambiguous in the second two films.

In the latest installment, we have some preacher guy. (I had to look up the character’s name in IMDB. That’s not good. That’s a sign that the character was a bit player and not a key character.) Preacher guy (Phillip, played by Sam Claflin) was the moral compass. I did think that the interaction between him and the mermaid character, Syrena was the most interesting part of the film, and could have been used more for dramatic effect.

The story and plot were easy enough to follow in this film. Almost too easy. The Spanish are in the film more as a convenient plot device than anything integral to the story.

I think what was really missing from the film to make it go from okay to great was that we lack a main character who has a strong motivation to accomplish an objective. I think that’s the key ingredient it was missing.

Ultimately, I’d say Disney was looking for a formulaic way to make money off of the PotC franchise with a new marketing strategy. Put international actors in the film, use CGI, and make it in 3D. They made money off of it, enough I’d wager to make another sequel. This film was made more for plundering movie goers out of their booty for than storytelling.

Here’s how I’d summarize the film, it would be a good movie to watch late in the summer when you’re bored and looking for something to do. It’s an okay way to pass a couple of hours. If you had other things to spend your hard earned gold doubloons on, go do that. It wouldn’t be a bad lazy Sunday afternoon movie rental to watch with the family.

I’d give it 2.5 out of 5 Jolly Rogers.

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