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Friday, May 20, 2011



Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a 2011 action film directed by Rob Marshall that serves as the fourth installment in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The film opens with our favorite hero, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) traversing the streets of London in the hopes of finding a ship that will take him to the fabled Fountain of Youth. After meeting - and fighting - a former lover named Angelica (Penélope Cruz), Sparrow finds himself a deckhand on the Queen Anne's Revenge, ship of the feared Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Angelica, who happens to be Blackbeard's daughter, has learned of a prophesy saying that her father will be killed by a one-legged man unless they can reach the Fountain of Youth and guarantee his immortality. So, with the help of "Captain" Jack, the Revenge travels across the Atlantic Ocean, sailing through mermaid-infested waters to the island where the Fountain of Youth is said to be. To make matters worse, the crew has to keep a weather eye out for their competitors: a mysterious band of Spaniards and a crew of British privateers led by none other than the all-too-familiar Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), all who also seek the Fountain's amazing power.

When I first heard about the idea for On Stranger Tides, I was immediately filled with a sense of glee and fanboy-ish excitement. As you may or may not have noticed from my posts in the past few days, I'm quite a fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, so taking another venture with good ol' Captain Jack seemed like a fantastic idea. However, as some of the details of the film started to be released, I started to question whether the franchise was going in the right direction. (I think a lot of the questions I had were raised in my trailer breakdown for On Stranger Tides). It seemed like there were just too many changes: the characters of Will and Elizabeth wouldn't be returning; Rob Marshall had replaced Gore Verbinski in the director's chair... I'm sure I could list any number of deviations from the original trilogy. So I feel like my concerns were somewhat justified. One piece of information that kept my hopes up for On Stranger Tides was the fact that the screenplay was going to be loosely based on Tim Powers' novel of the same name. The fact that they actually had award-winning source material for the storyline gave me a little bit of hope that we might have a legitimate screenplay this time around. But that's neither here nor there, I suppose. But I digress... Let's get into my review of the film.

I don't think I need to say much about the acting that I haven't already said before. Depp and Rush are their fantastic selves once again, and Kevin McNally does well reprising his role. Aside from those three, however, we have an entirely new cast, and I think that was the most off-putting part of the film. Because we the audience had spent three films with the same characters, something felt a little amiss without Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley running around and falling in love. I even missed our little bits of comic relief from some of the minor characters. That being said, I didn't think that our newer characters were all that terrible. Academy Award-winner Cruz does well with her role, but I don't think she was given a lot to work with (more on that in a moment). McShane is also a force on the screen, and although I think they could've gone a little deeper with his character, he was definitely serviceable. Also be on the lookout for cameo appearances from Keith Richards and Dame Judi Dench.

The storyline is also serviceable, but it's lacking a little bit of the bite that the previous films have seen. But I have a bit of a theory on this. Let's think back to 2003 when The Curse of the Black Pearl hit theaters. No one really knew what the film was going to be like - I mean, it was a movie adapted from a theme park ride, so it probably could've gone either way. As we all know, it turned out to be a smash hit, but critically, financially and personally for me (the original film ranks as the fifty-fifth greatest film I've ever seen). Because no one knew it would have such success, however, the film was crafted so that it could stand alone as its own story. After its massive popularity, two sequels were shot simultaneously, and they were both completely connected, creating two films that cannot stand alone - they need each other to make sense. The reason for this complementary nature is the amount of exposition we're given - information given in Dead Man's Chest is essential to understand At World's End completely. The first film didn't delve into the exposition because we didn't know whether it would click with audiences in the first place.

Fast forward to 2011, and we have the fourth installment in a highly successful franchise. All reports currently say that two more Pirates films will be on the way, crafting a second trilogy for the series. Because these films are almost certain to rake in huge numbers at the box office, I think it's safe to say that Pirates 5 and Pirates 6 loom on the horizon. Because of this, I think the filmmakers chose to give On Stranger Tides - the first film in their NEW trilogy - a different feel. With the certainty of successive films, they could delve into exposition with this particular installment. The whole feel of On Stranger Tides gives the sense that there's much, much more to come.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is just the start of another continued adventure into the Jack Sparrow saga, and it should be viewed as such. Some people may be put-off by the slightly slower pace, but this second trilogy is already looking to have a vastly different face than its predecessor. I for one am excited by the prospect, and I shall eagerly await the next installments. Maybe it's just me being a fanboy, but I'm expecting some great things from the next couple of Pirates adventures.

(Oh, and as is the usual with the Pirates films, don't forget to stay through the end credits for one final scene.)

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B
1.5 Thumbs Up

Addition to Rankings
Best Sequel - #32

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