Film Grade: B-
I've been a huge, die-hard fan of Pirates of the Caribbean since the first one came out in 2003. I still liked the second and third, but only because I'm a huge fan, not because I thought the movies were well-made. There was way too much going on in the plot, sub-plot, and sub-sub-sub plot. Very confusing at times.
What makes On Stranger Tides different?
Well, for one, the plot is much simpler now. Jack Sparrow has to find the Fountain of Youth in order to get his beloved Black Pearl back from Blackbeard, the burning-beard pirate that is many ways a more fearsome foe than Davy Jones ever was. (Without giving anything away, his sword is magical and can do scary things.)
Gone are older characters like Will, Elizabeth, wooden-eyed Ragetti and his companion Pintel. When I first heard they were gone, I was skeptical because Will and Elizabeth in particular provided the heart to the story. Jack Sparrow has always been the comic character, and Will provided the straight man. Although gone, the director knew they had to have solid characters in the story, so they added Philip, a missionary, and Syrena, the mermaid he falls in love with.
Oh yeah, there are mermaids. but after seeing this movie, you won't ever look at mermaids the same way again. They're definitely not cliche, which was refreshing to see. There are also zombie-pirates, although they might as well have been from Davy Jones' crew, they looked so similar to the ones from the last couple Pirate films.
Needless to say, Mr. Depp is once again fabulous in his reprise of Captain Sparrow. The one critique I have for the character is that he while he has become the main guy, his random wittiness has fallen short. In the first movie, Will's role was more important, and therefore necessary to allow Sparrow's humor to be more silly and random. As the main character, however, he's had to show more depth and heart, which is fine, but it's not as fun as it used to be.
I was wary of Penelope Cruz being in this movie. Never have been a fan of hers, and still not, but she did a pretty good job as Angelica, Jack's love interest. Ian McShane made a truly menacing Blackbeard, with just enough dark humor to make his character interesting. Geoffrey Rush, who plays Barbossa, was probably the best in this movie out of the four. His character has taken a whimsical turn. Since he lost his leg, he has taken up hobbies and kept a "king's men" facade in order to take revenge on Blackbeard for losing the leg.
My favorite thing about this film is the glorified portrayal of faith. In most films these days, faith is looked down upon, scorned, and laughed at. Philip, the missionary, provides a certain depth to this film that the other movies didn't have as much. He preaches to Blackbeard, "Everyone can be saved...although, I see you as maybe a bit of a longshot..." Angelica, too, says to Jack, "Who are you to set limits on redemption?" Philip is seen as one of the movie's heroes, which puts his faith in a good light.
Although Philip's definition of redemption becomes a bit twisted once he falls in love with Syrena, he shows a beautiful example of self-sacrificing love, rather than lust. When she must travel on land, causing her to be naked once her mermaid tail disappears, he removes his shirt to protect her chastity, and then carries her in an act of service. He tells her she's beautiful, not for only her looks, but for her kindness as well. He recognizes the beauty of her personhood before her physical traits.
Overall, the movie is good. Well done and much simpler than the last two, although the first is still the best. It's a classic. But On Stranger Tides definitely makes a worthy tribute to the infamous, immortal Captain Jack Sparrow.
|Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in On Stranger Tides|
Side note: The soundtrack is just as good as ever! With the Spaniards in this movie, as well as the Ricky Ricardo-esque Angelica, who bursts into Spanish when angry, there is a beautiful Spanish guitar in the soundtrack. Enjoy!