Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


8 years ago a film called Pirates of the Caribbean was released that looked like it couldn't possibly be any good. Positioned as a companion film to a now long forgotten Eddy Murphy vehicle, based on a ride and put out by the (at the time) artistically bankrupt Walt Disney, we were all ready to dismiss it before it even hit theaters. But then something odd happened. The film had a great director, a solid script, and a gift from god cast and against all the odds, it was good. So, 3 times over the last 10 years we all turned out for a good time at the theater.

Of course, this new film has more than a few reasons for us all to be a little nervous about it. Half the gift from god cast has left to do other things, the director wandered off into the wild, and the film looked like a quick cash in. But hey, the first 3 were 'good against all odds' so I went in with optimism.

The result? A massive 'eh.' The script is lazy and confusing, the film long and stalling, the actors bored looking and the direction paint by numbers. Oddly, it's the character of Jack Sparrow who drags the most. We loved Jack as the side character, having fun on the margins, while Will went through all the heroes business. Saddling Jack with main character duties keeps him from being fun.

To the plot...Well something to do with the fountain of youth, but that's all I can be sure of. Jack gets jacked (HA) by Blackbeard, who has some vaguely defined magical powers, and his daughter Angelica, who Jack use to have a thing with, so that Jack can lead all of them to the fountain. Oh and the British and the Spanish are having a race for the fountain too, with Barbossa leading the British and being essentially an entirely different character. Along the way there's this subplot about a romance between a Cleric and a Mermaid (no really) that seems like it's out of an entirely separate movie.

The film is, to put it gently, a massive mess. Ironically it turns out that director Gore Verbinski's presence is the one that is the most sorely missed. Remember the swirling camera movements and smooth and well used editing in the first three that made simple sword fights so exhilarating and engaging? Well it's all gone, leaving simple shots and flat editing, rendering most of the sword and gun fights boring. And not to complain, but the series desire to get gradually more epic is apparently gone. Nothing in it comes close to the Wheel fight from Dead Man's Chest, much less any of the epic duels at the end of At World's End. Rob Marshall's biggest film before this was the Oscar winning Chicago but he seems completely out of his depth in this, and the inexperience at action shows.

Of course Jack Sparrow is always fun, and Johnny Depp is always a treat but thrust into the spotlight, he's a lot less fun and his schtick is starting to feel a bit tired. Geoffery Rush isn't as into this movie as he was in the last 2. Ian McShane has a solid screen presence but no real character or motivation, and his abilities are usually forgotten until the plot requires him to have them. And Penelope Cruz is merely a tired and annoying stereotype, with no real depth or interest. Hell, Anamaria had more depth with a quarter of the screentime in Curse.

The screenplay lurches back and forth between padded, poorly thought out or rushed, and the story is lot less interesting or unique then the last 3, perhaps due to the fact that it's based on some book that I've never heard of or perhaps just due to no one's heart really being in it. It's over 2 hours and does next to nothing in that time, or at least nothing a better director couldn't do in 90 minutes.

Look, I know we all love Pirates and we were all hoping this one would be good, but it's really just a lazy cash in. You'd get better value watching any of the last 3 again, or if you absolutely MUST see this, please wait till it hits DVD. Otherwise they might make the 5th one they were desperately trying to tease the entire film.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he thinks the credit 'Suggested by the book' is probably his new favorite.

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