It's that time again! Time for all the critics and narcissistic bloggers to sit down and over analyze another Pirates film, tear it to shreds and rant on for multiple paragraphs about how the series should have ended after the first film. Yes we all know most of you loved the first one and completely despised the second two so why bother putting yourself through the torture of another Pirates film (unless your getting paid for it)? Trust me I understand, I feel the same way about the Harry Potter franchise which everyone bizarrely seems to gush over, but enough is enough with the online mutiny! But for anyone reading this you're in luck, because this review will be one of the few not devoted to telling you why a theme park ride should have never been turned into a four plus movie franchise. I'll tell you to good and the bad and save the ranting for something that deserves to be ranted about!
On Stranger Tides picks up some time after At World's End left off with the search for the fountain of youth. Skipping the usual film summary let's simply jump into my thoughts, because the plot is pretty basic. Being a fan of the entire franchise On Stranger Tides easily ranks last in terms of my overall enjoyment, the largest reason for this is poor casting. Most of the new characters lack one important characteristic that helped to balance out the three prior films... emotion. While Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) seemed to be a large portion of the critism in regards to the past two films they were the characters that brought the meat of the series passion and heart, and without that this entry simply felt dull, devoid of emotion. The only emotional performances this time around are from the two characters obviously brought in to fill the Turner family gap, Philip (the missionary) and Syrena (the mermaid). These two characters worked well, but so little time was devoted to them that it wasn't enough to overcome the drab emotionless performances of Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane.
Penelope Cruz plays Angelica, former flame of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and daughter of Black Beard (Ian McShane). In these types of male dominated films you really need a female co-star that can bring the full gambit in terms of acting (as Knightley did) Cruz fails in that department. While she looks the role her acting style in so sterile and stiff that there absolutely no chemistry between her and Depp. McShane also physically plays the role of the villain well, yet also lacks any real emotion or depth, something the characters of Barbossa (in the first film) and Davy Jones (in film two and three) were able to bring to the table in establishing well rounded villains.
Now to the good. Essentially the entire second half of the film helps to redeem the rather plodding and stale first half which is mainly occupied by Sparrow, Angelica and Black Beard. Once the crew hits the island were the fountain of youth is hidden and go about capturing a mermaid (needed for her tears to make the powers of the fountain work) things begin to pick up. I'm not exaggerating when I say the mermaids saved this film from being a complete bore. The entire mermaid sequence is easily the best action sequence in the film and the addition of Syrena (the captured mermaid) to the land party adds just enough emotion to keep the second half from being as drab as the first. It's my hope that if the series continues, which it undoubtedly will, Syrena and Philip, who were given a rather open ended departure at the end, will return in the next film and be given a larger role. They were a decent replacement for Elizabeth and Will but simply weren't used to their full potential, and with these films characters such as them are needed to help balance out Jack Sparrow and the other one dimensional characters from bogging down the film.
In the end, On Stranger Tides is the least exciting of the four films, but still far from horrible as the second half essentially rescues the film from certain doom. Of course if you hated the last two films chances of you liking this one is slim. On Stranger Tides is definitely not as corny as Dead Man's Chest, and not as over-the-top as At World's End. If anything it reminded more of The Curse of the Black Pearl minus the characters that made that film work so well (Swan and Turner). If you're a fan of all the films then you should find some enjoyment here, how much will be dependent upon what you loved most about the first three entries. For me even though this one was a little lack luster most of the time I look forward to the inevitable fifth film, (which is coming so you bloggers might as well not waste you time ranting for it to not happen)! Depp has been more than vocal about his desire to continue the role so you can count on more films as long as they make money and this film already looks like it will cover the budget on the weekend worldwide box office receipts alone. So go suck on a dead man's thumb haters! ;)