Tuesday, May 24

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), in search of the power of the fountain of youth, is gathering a crew.  Wait, never mind, that’s someone pretending to be Jack.  Jack is actually imprisoned (again) for piracy and is facing a British judge awaiting his sentence.  Whoops.  Wrong again, not Jack but Gibbs who everyone thinks is Jack.  Out comes the judge, ready to sentence Gibbs, only its – Jack?  Saving his friend from the gallows, Jack “frees” Gibbs (read: poor planning and ends them back up in British hands).

Mayhem ensues.

It isn’t long before Jack learns that the imposter is Angelica (Penelope Cruz), an old flame (and Blackbeard’s daughter).  She captures Jack and brings him aboard Blackbeard’s ship with hopes that Jack will help lead them to the fountain of youth.  The British also seek the fountain and turn to “privateer” Captain Barbossa to lead them.  The writer’s also decided, just for fun, to have several ships full of Spaniards also hunt for the fountain.

 I entered into the theater for this movie with a great deal of anticipation – both good and bad.  The Curse of the Black Pearl was a great treasure of a film, filled to the brim with fun and excitement.  However Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End dove straight off the plank.  The winding storyline and weaker supporting characters felt too forced and heavy handed and I was left feeling extremely dissatisfied.

In hopes of freshening up the story a little, Elizabeth and Will were dropped, and I was quite happy to see them go.  While I thought they were fine in the first movie, their inclusion in the second and third was much more unnecessary.  Another nice touch was to have a self contained story and a noticeably shorter running time that the nearly three hours At World’s End.  They also introduced several new characters, including Angelica and Blackbeard, but also a missionary and a mermaid who are forced to aid in the search (forced into the story as well).

On the whole, I thought the basic idea for the story was much stronger that the second and third movie though was not executed quite as well.  Many elements seemed rehashed, overblown, or unbelievable (even within the world of the story).  I’ll start with Blackbeard.  I thought Ian McShane was wonderfully cast but the character was woefully underwritten and poorly used.  He had a whole mish-mash of magical abilities that includes: he can make people into ‘zombies’ which crew his ship, he can control the rigging on his ship merely by waving his sword, and he can make fully functioning voodoo dolls.  All in all, it seemed overkill.  Blackbeard also didn’t have much depth.  One of my favorite characters from Curse of the Black Pearl was Barbossa, because he was a villain who had something that still drew the audience towards him (though I am quite upset the writer’s brought him back from the dead in the later movies).  Blackbeard just seemed like a bad person.  There wasn’t anything particularly special about his character

Barbossa was also, I feel, completely misused.  He was such a wonderful character in the first film, and now he feels incredibly flat.  Somehow he ends up being captain of a British ship and crew, and the crew knows he is Barbossa.  And they are letting a former pirate, who once captained a ship with a cursed crew in an attack against a British governor’s mansion, lead them to the fountain of youth?  Okay…..

While we’re on the topic of the fountain and the search for it, what was up with the Spaniards?  The first scene of the movie is the Spaniards learning more about the location of the fountain.  After that we pretty much never see them again, unless Jack or Barbossa are in direct contact with one of them.  They seem to be to faceless villain who only appears exactly at the right time to confound and befuddle our heroes.  Unlike past Pirates films, in which we get to learn about the villains, we never learn anything about the Spaniards other than everyone hates them and wants to beat them to the fountain.

Thankfully, two darker toned Pirates sequels, there seems to be a much great abundance of humor in this one.  For the most part, I thought it played well. A few times the jokes fell flat, though that was often when they too closely resembled parts in previous films.

Despite a slightly weaker opening weekend than hoped, it seems like a sure thing that another film is already in the works.  My advice to the writers: Get rid of Barbossa, give your villain some depth, and try not to have an overly bloated plot.  Thanks.


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