Saturday, May 21, 2011

Film Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

There are moments like these when you're sure that things couldn't possibly get worse, yet you know they will. Such were the thoughts that ran through my head as the credits rolled for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I thought it would take hours before it sank in how truly horrible the film I just saw was, and it arrived in mere minutes. I felt like this could be the inglorious end to the franchise, and then I remembered how brilliantly the film will do at the box office this weekend. It doesn't matter if negative word of mouth arrives in time. People will still see it for themselves.

I went to see the film on a whim, leaving my home for the theater ten minutes before the film started. I didn't arrive until about 15-20 minutes into the film, just as Jack was running amok into a London street corner. Honestly, I don't believed that I missed anything of value in the time that I missed. Captain Jack Sparrow is acting absolutely crazy for no apparent reason. Seems to fit just about right, doesn't it? In any case, it didn't take long for me to pick up on the fact that somebody has been impersonating Jack in order to put together a crew to sail towards the fountain of youth. It turns out the impersonator is Angelica, a former flame of Jack's. I know that most of these characters are drunken pirates, but how could any of them think for a second that Penelope Cruz is a man?

Remember how in the first three films Jack would be the center of the universe and that everyone would be following him? That couldn't be further from the truth this time. He is the main character, but every single moment it feels like he shouldn't be. He's being thrust into this adventure unwillingly, and he ends up a regular crew member on the Queen Anne's Revenge, infamous ship of the infamous Blackbeard. They're headed for the fountain of youth, as is Captain Barbossa, now a privateer for the high court of England. And, apparently, so is a Spanish fleet. It feels like too many people are going after the same thing for no reason.

Along the way, Blackbeard and his crew need to capture a mermaid as part of the formula for the ceremony at the fountain of youth. I knew going into this film that it would be an endurance test through some ridiculous and convoluted waters, but it really sank in at this particular point. There was a tad bit of pleasure for a moment, because a bunch of attractive wet ladies isn't something you roll your eyes at. Then it went back into unwanted territory, and the mermaids begin to look less like the "Grendel's Mother from Beowulf" vision I had in my mind, and more like a bunch of Ariels with fangs. Like vampires.

There were things I was so optimistic about towards the start of the experience, such as the lush visuals we'd all been expecting. It got to a point in which they simply faded to nothing, and I couldn't appreciate any of what I had hoped to. Johnny Depp has devolved to his least attractive personality, yet his most irritating, and it's a perfect match for Penelope Cruz's unnecessarily forced depiction of Jack's "love interest". Geoffrey Rush continues to be verbally indecipherable as Barbossa, and Ian McShane is talent wasted. There's also a mermaid and a missionary who fall in love. I didn't care in the slightest. I really wish I could find some sort of primal enjoyment from this film, but each character is pulled around for no real reason, and you can see clearly where everything is going to go. Some say that it's not the destination but the journey. The destination is undesirable, and the journey is painful. I will say that there is a moment in the film that did satisfy me, other than the credits. Jack is passionately professing loving with Penelope Cruz, the music's swelling, and then the music abruptly cuts out. That's the only enjoyable part of the film. It doesn't raise it from the lowest grade.



  1. I decided to not see this film (I lost interest in it a few days ago, and was more intent in watching Winnie the Pooh, which I sadly was not able to see) but apperantly the beginning, according to most reviews, is the best part of the film and you missed it.

  2. Oh. Such a pity. I guess I should see it again just to catch Judi Dench's cameo appearance. (NOT!)

  3. Judi Dench was in the movie?!?!!!?!!!!!

    And The Muppets trailer was playing in front of this movie! I must see it now!