Elusive as a Mermaids Tear

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise seems to be weighted down in the middle by a plot which falters considerably in managing the antics of Captain Jack Sparrow competing against Blackbeard in their quest for the fountain of youth without the support of his original team. Johnny Depp reprises his role as the outrageous pirate which garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in the first film in 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. While On Stranger Tides is in the hands of Chicago and Nine director Rob Marshall and not Gore Verbinski who directed the first three Pirates films, is lighter in tone, the action less dramatic and a meandering storyline which is as elusive as a mermaids tear.

Captain Jack is Back

Gone are Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom who did not sign up for the fourth film leaving Captain Jack Sparrow adrift in a new version fighting Blackbeard and wooing the mercurial Angelica, played by Penelope Cruz, who looks equally surprised at being cast in a Walt Disney film. Cruz is far better suited to art house films like Vicky Christina Barcelona and Volver, than in a Hollywood Blockbuster, although her rendition of Angelica as a fiery counterpoint to Sparrow’s wild antics  is certainly worth the praise.

Geoffrey Rush reprises his role as Captain Barbarossa and Ian McShane plays Blackbeard with an elegant malice, emanating villainy and evil in all his immoral endeavours. Johnny Depp does not manage to top his original performance in the first Pirates film, as by now his Keith Richards style take on Jack Sparrow as over the top has been all too familiarized. From such a versatile actor like Depp, he requires exciting characters to stretch his formidable talents, which director Tim Burton understands beautifully casting him in most of his films from Edward Scissorhands, to Sweeney Todd and more recently Alice in Wonderland.

Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides should have been called the Fountain of Youth, while the entire characters quest for the illustrious fountain whose powers can only be harnessed with a mermaids tear has a plotline dangerously close to Raiders of the Lost Ark. After a brilliant start in the grimy streets of Georgian London and a daring and explosive action sequence, On Stranger Tides becomes adrift both figuratively and literally as the search for the fountain of youth is misguided by a floundering subplot of a Christian missionary being seduced by a coy mermaid, one can’t help feel that Sparrow was the only one carrying the voyages further without support from his winning team. The success of the first three films hinged on the brilliant combination of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly as the trio who bravely battle pirates on the high seas from Captain Barbarossa to Davy Jones to monsters and sea goddesses like Calypso.

In this fourth installment, although Cruz and Depp are tantalizing in the main roles there is not enough screen time for both these highly competent actors to truly develop a brilliant repartee. Much of the witty and comic  dialogue is smothered by the action sequences which had the timing been perfect, On Stranger Tides would have shared the success of the preceding Pirates films, which is more to do with director Rob Marshall whose talents are more adept at directing musicals and historical epics than a Hollywood special effects laden blockbuster. Director Rob Marshall vision of Pirates is more lavish, sexier and less action packed.

Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides will surely draw the crowds but is in no way a superior film when viewed as part of a Franchise, and while it begins brilliantly, the middle seems bogged down with subplot and the ending lacks any spectacular finale demonstrated in At World’s End. Disney seems to be taking all the viewers for a long and illustrious journey on a voyage which is in danger of losing its lustre and originality. Bring back Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann to help Jack Sparrow reinvigorate the Pirates of the Caribbean.

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