Rewatch of the Caribbean Part Four: On Stranger Tides

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The last time I saw any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films was in the cinema. Given that I will be writing about pirates fairly soon (and that HMV had the blu-rays for cheap) I figured it’s about time I returned to give the franchise another watch. I’ll be doing one each Sunday, concluding today with part four, On Stranger Tides.

I guess I kind of expected this. Being the one I saw most recently before embarking on this endeavour, On Stranger Tides was the film freshest in my memory. Unfortunately, it was fresh in my memory for being a rather large step down from Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. As it turns out, my memory did not fail me.

After films two and three were criticised for being overly bloated and continuity heavy, On Stranger Tides was an attempt to get back to the straightforward nature of the first film. But it was one that fell a little flat.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. It’s certainly no Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but at the same time, it’s lacking something. My gut reaction is that it’s lacking the Gore Verbinski touch. Rob Marshall is a competent director, but his action scenes don’t quite have the excitement and flair of Verbinski’s. There’s also a huge lack of any sort of naval battles in this one, which seems a bizarre choice given that they took the time to introduce the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

And speaking of which, let’s get onto what was good here. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush played their roles with the usual aplomb. It was interesting to see Barbossa back to a more villainous role, though as a privateer for King George. He’s gone from chaotic evil to chaotic neutral to lawful evil, yet somehow Rush plays him consistently. It’s compelling to watch.

Also excellent is Ian McShane as Blackbeard. He’s the real villain of the piece and he excels at it. What does bother me is his sword. He uses it at one point to control the ropes on his ship to hang some mutineers. And we are told later through exposition that he can use it to control other ships too. How cool is that?! And why do we not get to see it happen?! Why is that not the film’s macguffin? Fuck the fountain of youth, give me a film about Jack and Barbossa going after Blackbeard’s sword!

Which I guess leads me to my final point. After a fun setup and first half, the trek through the jungle in the latter half of the film is kind of boring. There are some fun bits, mostly when Depp and Rush get to ham it up together on screen.

But otherwise it just doesn’t work. Not Orlando Bloom playing a character who’s only defining features are that he’s a Christian and that he’s not Orlando Bloom is like a black hole of charisma. Penelope Cruz as Angelica makes for a fun foil, but it’s hard to care about her fate at the end when we only met her two hours previously.

They already had the perfect ending with how At World’s End wrapped up. I’m just not sure this one was necessary.

Franchise ranking:

1. At World’s End – Just utterly huge. The action is amazing from start to finish, and it brings the whole thing full circle in a satisfying conclusion all around.

2. Dead Man’s Chest – Retains the fun of the first film while introducing a more epic fantasy story and maintaining a more consistent quality throughout.

3. Curse of the Black Pearl – A fun, lighthearted pirate adventure that is let down slightly by not being able to maintain its excellent quality going into its second half.

4. On Stranger Tides – A fairly mediocre and unnecessary sequel that squanders all its good ideas in a boring plot.

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