Reel Matt

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Film #343


Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.

Year 1, Day 343

BEFORE: My original plan for today is going to be altered slightly because my laptop is in for repairs, but it should be back by tomorrow and it’ll be business as usual. Luckily, armed with my new library card, I picked up a whole bunch of new DVDs that I’ll start getting through beginning with a fourth in a series, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

AFTER: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a great film and brought swashbuckling pirates to life on the screen. With this latest, On Stranger Tides, the magic that was present in the original is now all but gone. It’s still funny and Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is his usual, fantastic, self, but the adventure and journey are sorely diminished and what is in the film is overly reliant on the supernatural.

The characters and their special kind of humor will always have a place in the realm of film. Seeing Sparrow and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) fight each other and watching Sparrow improvise another escape on the spot is a part of the franchise and will always have a certain level of appeal. With as many jokes about rum, mutiny, and parley that I’ve heard from these films, I still found myself laughing a bit. I couldn’t resist but enjoying an elaborate escape in front of King George II (Richard Griffiths) involving a chandelier, plates full of food, and a doily carefully placed on the floor. But moments like these are few and far between in On Stranger Tides. Instead, it’s filled with nonsense and lots of pointless set pieces.

Comedy has always been a part of this franchise, and as I said above, is still very much present, but I say it’s too much. Many scenes were set up for a joke or a funny moment between Sparrow and another seaman. With a premise of trying to find the Fountain of Youth, opportunity is ripe, but On Stranger Tides squanders that. A good chunk of the beginning (around an hour or so) is spent in London, preparing everything before anyone even sets sail. The Fountain is like a pipe dream, something that feels like will never be reached. And then, all of a sudden there’s a turning point. The ships are out at sea, on the way to their destination. It feels like a different film - the adventure and excitement picks up. But this too is soon lost. The focus shifts from pirates in search for a treasure to a supernatural quest with, not one, but two love stories thrown in for good measure.

I keep saying supernatural and giving it a negative connotation. The original The Curse of the Black Pearl had it’s share of supernatural elements as well. Cursed gold that sustained life, only to be broken by the spilling of blood. And that was fine because it wasn’t over done. It didn’t feel like a fantasy, it felt like an out-of-this-world reality. Here, there are flying demon mermaids, a voodoo doll, a ship controlled by a sword, and to top it all off, zombies. With all of this going on, the Fountain of Youth isn’t really the focus any longer; it’s dealing with all of this nonsense. In addition to this, a few of the other story elements are similarly poorly thought out. What is the purpose of the religious man other than to produce the mermaid tear after falling in love with her? Why is there even a voodoo doll of Jack if it’s hardly used and then just tossed off a cliff? What is the point of throwing Gibbs (Kevin McNally) in every couple of scenes besides the fact he memorized the map? Couldn’t they have settled for a partially scorched map or made Gibbs’ character more important if they really felt the need for him to stick around?

All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was a disappointment. It lacks the excitement and spirit that we’ve come to know and love from the franchise. Sure, there are still some laughs to be had but these are grossly outweighed by a terrible and out of control story. Don’t bother watching this, even if you’re like me and must watch everything in a franchise. It really isn’t worth it.

RATING: 2 out of 5