Set sail with Captain Jack Once more!

So as you all know, Captain Jack (Johnny Depp)  has returned in his latest adventure titled Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides.  This fourth installment of the famous swashbuckling series focuses on the journey to find the legendary Fountain of Youth, the mythological wonder that is said to keep one young forever.  The question I asked myself when I first saw this trailer was is this movie going to be good, or has Disney taken the series one movie too far?  I mean after all, how many movies do you know have a fourth installment that is worth watching?  I can’t seem to recall too many successful fourth installments that weren’t disasters like Alien Resurrection, the fourth star trek movie, and yes even the fourth Batman series.  However, to my surprise I found Pirates 4 to be quite enjoyable for a fourth movie sequel that digs back into the story telling roots that made the first movie famous.

The movie begins out in the seas where a mysterious, old man is brought to the Spanish kingdom carrying the book of Ponce de Leon, the famous explorer who quested for the Fountain of Youth.  Cut now to England, to an English courtroom where one Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally) is being sentenced for being a pirate.  Well as most of you know wherever Gibbs is, Jack is not too far behind and sure enough his old buddy, along with a large wad of cash, manages to get him sentenced to life in prison.  Yet as you all know Jack’s clever mind works in mysterious ways and soon the two are planning their escape out of England.  However, his plan is foiled as he is delivered to the King of England instead, where Sparrow becomes obsessed with a cinnamon desert as he tries to sweet talk his way out of hanging.  The dialog ends with a classic Sparrow escape, which becomes a funny chase scene whose finish involves meeting up with Jack’s father.  A few exchanges of dialog, an exciting swordfight, and the introduction of Angelina (Penelope Cruz) results in Jack being brought aboard Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) boat.

Once on the boat, the movie is essentially split into two parts.  The first part focuses on explaining the items needed for the Fountain of Youth ritual.  This information is intertwined with some info on the relationship Angelina and Sparrow shared in the past as well as the motives for many of the characters.  Interrupting the main storyline, are scenes centering on Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Gibbs as they exchange comedic blows that help relieve the tension established in the main storyline.  These scenes refresh the audience members and help break away from the classic Sparrow comedy Depp provides the audience.

The second part of the movie takes place on the island and involves finding the items that were mentioned in the first half of the movie.  The island scenes start off with a bang as we meet the deadly, yet beautiful mermaids who wield seaweed weapons and a pair of vampire fangs, and the blood thirst with it.  As Sparrow and company trudge the island searching for the fabled items, more background information is revealed, new relationships are formed, and rivals combine forces to combat the greater threat.  Near the end of the movie, all of the parties seen throughout the movie combine into a fast, and rather lacking battle, that ends with a CGI water spectacular and eventually leads to the end of the movie.

So was this movie worth it?  To answer this let’s do that quick summary that I always do about some observations I made.

What I liked

  • Blackbeard:  Despite him being a horrible man, Ian McShane brought the character of Blackbeard to life for me.   Blackbeard was a character whose goals were selfish, but not as grand as taking over the seven seas, and instead was a character that seemed to be trying to live as long as he could.  This villain also had different sides to him that make him much more dynamic and relatable too.
  • Acting:   Overall the acting was done well by most of the crew.  Penelope Cruz fans will enjoy the fiery Latino as she fights off mutineers and teases Sparrow.  Sparrow is still as awkward as ever, but this time takes most of the screen time to entertain us.
  • Story:  I was impressed by the story and steady revealing about the quest.  This steady revealing opened up more time for character development.
  • Musical Score:  The classic pirate tunes are back and just as exciting as ever.  The music really agreed with the settings and I found myself being pulled further into the scene with each beat of the drum.
  • Mermaids:  Very impressed with how dark the mermaids were and how they were more monstrous than whimsical.  I liked their ability to attack with either seaweed or ramming the boat, but rolled my eyes at the vampire teeth they seemed to have.
  • It was funny!: Need I say more.

What needs work:

  • 3-D: I know it’s the current rage of the movie industry, but there are some scenes that are so cheesy and corny because they were shot in 3-D.  I know it’s an experiment, but surely we could try to avoid such attempts to make the movie pop out at us.
  • Where is the cool crew?:  The zombies in this movie were more ugly than useful.  Instead of having these men fight to protect their captain, they were more slave drivers and luggage carriers that just didn’t seem worth having.
  • Action has been tapered off:  Don’t expect this to be the adrenaline pumping, ship to ship combat, swashbuckling adventure you’ve come to know and love.  Many action scenes have been traded for story.  A few more of those classic sword fights would have been nice.
  • A mermaid love story?:  I’m sorry but it seems like everybody is trying to put an Edward and Bella in their movie.  This movie has a mermaid and a priest fall in love.  What’s up with that?  I can already hear Taylor Swift making her fifteenth love song about a romance in this movie that will make me roll my eyes like I did in this film.
  • Barbosa diluted:  Fans of the classic Barbossa may not be as impressed with his character in this film.  His co-star role has been diluted to more a side story that is used for comic relief, and although Rush plays it brilliantly, it still did not feel like the same Barbosa until the end.

So let’s wrap this up!  Pirates 4 felt more like the original Pirates but still needs some tweaking before we get another first one.  Despite that, Depp and company have begun the next trilogy and I feel that this trilogy will still be worth seeing.  It’s not easy to make a fourth sequel, but Disney has put out a movie that is fun, a little slow, and full of classic pirate adventure, just without the crew.  Overall I give this movie a 7.8.

Recommended audiences:  Pirates of the Caribbean fans, Johnny Depp or Penelope Cruz fans, 3-D poking out at you fans, anyone looking for a fun movie.

People who shouldn’t see it:  Action lovers, Barbosa fans, and anyone not wanting to sit two and half hours in a theatre.

Until next time, continue enjoying the movies!

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