Fight Film Friday: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Posted: May 20, 2011 in fight film friday
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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
USA, 2011
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
137 minutes

Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, now on a quest to find the legendary Fountain of Youth.

In the fourth installment of the popular Disney franchise, new director Rob Marshall takes over from Gore Verbinski, as well as casting the enigmatic Captain Jack as the hero of the story, dropping the previous duo of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. On Stranger Tides draws from a number of different sources, with about a half-dozen creative inputs, and it really shows. With the screenstory and screenplay written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, based on characters by those two, Stuart Beattie, and Jay Wolpert, suggested by the novel of the same name by Tim Powers, based on the ride in Disneyland, all directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the whole film comes off as hastily and sloppily made, a confusing mash-up of far too many different ideas, some of them even promising. However, the most interesting and intriguing concepts are buried under a mountain of bland and forced re-hashes of the same jokes and character ticks we’ve seen a thousand times since the first film back in 2003. It still feels like a Pirates film, I suppose, thanks mostly to Hans Zimmer’s familiar score, but more like an especially well-funded Pirates fan fiction than a truly original piece or work. Marshall spends a lot of time enjoying the Hawaiian scenery, but doesn’t really capture that feeling of adventure that characterized the first trilogy.

Returning stars Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush feel familiar in their old roles, but the script is flat and dry, and they can do only so much to make it entertaining. Aside from the weak dialogue, the story itself is a ridiculous hodgepodge of far too many elements, too many characters, and too many emotional threads that they’re trying to pass off as a coherent plot. Threats come and go as required, leaving little to really drive home any significant sense of importance. Ian McShane plays a powerful and fearsome Blackbeard, and Penelope Cruz is a solid counterpart for Depp’s Sparrow, but there’s just so much unfulfilled potential in the relationships between all the characters. Already clocking in at over two hours, the creative team would have done better to focus on a third of the different pieces they tried to incorporate into the film.

Probably the biggest disappointment in Marshall’s vision is the poor execution of the action sequences. Despite all the explosions and swashbuckling (and there’s plenty, to be sure), it all feels flat and uninteresting. The pace doesn’t get fast enough to be exciting, and the cinematography lacks the epic impact that the previous movies excelled at. Perhaps I’m judging On Stranger Tides too harshly based on it as a part of the Pirates franchise, but in the end it’s just a weak film trying to bank on the success of its predecessors.

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