Disney started off with a strong with a film franchise that was based on one of their theme park attractions; Pirates of the Caribbean. The trilogy as a whole ended up being pretty weak, At World's End was a bit too far out there. Disney has released a fourth installment to keep the cash cow franchise alive, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) and you know what? It wasn't too bad.
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses paths with Angelica Teach (Penélope Cruz), a woman from his past and he's not sure if there is still love there, or if she's a ruthless con artist who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn't' know who to fear more: Blackbeard or Angelica. En route to find the Fountain of Youth, they discover a Spanish armada as well as Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack's nemesis, hot on their trail. All parties bent on being the first to take advantage of the Fountain of Youth.
I loved the first Pirates movie; Johnny Depp is what made it so good. He was encouraged to improvise. The script basically had what the point of the scene was and Depp was supposed to fill it in with his own material. That gave the character Jack Sparrow and the whole lot more spontaneity and gave the movie a comical quirkiness that made it so endearing. It ultimately influenced Pirates as a pop culture icon. The second and third movies were fun, but they pushed credibility too far and had a hard and fast script (no improvising here) which wasn't as good as Depp's improvisations. On Stranger Tides brought us back to what made the first movie good, but still had some of the bits that made the second and third movie weak.
Johnny Depp is without a doubt Captain Jack Sparrow. No one else can play that role the way he does. Depp uses improvisation and his signature quirkiness to bring comical spontaneity to On Stranger Tides. He's got some witty lines and hilarious delivery. He says things like, " Captain, I wish to report a mutiny. I can name fingers and point names." and "You know that feeling you get when you're standing in a high place... sudden urge to jump?... I don't have it." If for no other reason, seeing Johnny Depp play Jack Sparrow again makes the movie worth seeing.
As was the case in the third movie, At World's End, there isn't really a good guy to root for. Sure, you want Jack Sparrow to win just because he's so fun, but the movie consists of a few anti-heroes and a whole bunch of bad guys. By the climax of the movie, there are about five different groups convening and they start fighting with one another. They could have realistically taken out at least two of those groups out to simplify everything without actually losing any plot points. The story gets convoluted and hard to follow the closer we get to the end the movie.
Blackbeard was a great villain! He's downright evil. He's at least as nasty as Barbossa was in the first Pirates movie. He's got some great lines, he had a menacing presence, and he is simply someone you don't want to cross.
There was a theme of religious faith and redemption that seemed out of sorts when juxtaposed against the mermaids, voodoo zombies, pirates, and floating water. The Queen Anne's Revenge has a young clergyman on it for some reason and he and Blackbeard are often at odds about the value of faith and whether or not hell is actually something to worry about. While the theme is ultimately put to reasonably good use in terms of character development, I felt the whole religiosity thing was taken a bit lightly. I doubt that even the most devout Christians would find reason to be offended by any of it, it just felt ill-suited for a movie about pirates having a supernatural adventure.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was a fun movie, though not necessarily a good movie. It had lots of fun, but improbable fight scenes, some supernatural action, a few new faces, and some familiar faces from the previous films. Keith Richards even makes another brief appearance as Captain Teague, Jack's father. It's still a bit weak as some of the characters were completely unnecessary and the story gets convoluted later on. It's more of what made the first movie good, and more of what made the other ones not so good. In the end, it's a fun movie that you'll probably only enjoy if you liked the previous movies. It's a renter, but since I already own the first three, I feel obligated to get this one to complete my collection. Holding true to Pirates of the Caribbean tradition, make sure you stick around for the post-credits scene.
Apart from Captain Jack Sparrow, who is your favorite Pirates of the Caribbean character? Comment below, and tell me why!