As the Summer Blockbuster season continues in full swing, so do the movies themselves. Today’s movie hearkens a return to the swashbuckling pirate Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The Walt Disney Pictures film – the fourth in the successful series based off the amusement park ride – stars Johnny Depp, Pénelope Cruz, Ian McShane, and Geoffrey Rush. This movie has been billed as a return to what made the first film such an instant classic: a stand-alone story and the witty banter that only Johnny Depp can provide. Does it live up to its lofty expectations, or does it falter much like At World’s End did? Only one way to find out for sure.
The movie in Spain, where a couple of Spaniards find a body tangled up in their line. Thinking he is dead, they go to try to retrieve his effects, only to find out that the man is still alive. They take him to the King of Spain who finds out that the old man knew of Ponce de Léon, and that he was one of those looking for the Fountain of Youth. The king orders an expedition to take effect immediately, and this gets to King George (Richard Griffiths). King George issues Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), now a privateer for the British Navy, to go search for it. Meanwhile, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is on dual duty: he’s trying to save his first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from the gallows as well as trying to find out who’s impersonating him to set sail for the Fountain of Youth. Along the way, he runs into Angelica (Pénelope Cruz) and the fearsome Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and the chase is on, with the Fountain of Youth being the ultimate goal.
At this point, I would normally go into detail about the principal characters and the actors portraying them. Not this time, though; this time, I’m going to talk about what worked and what didn’t. So…what worked?
What worked for this movie was the witty banter. The movie moved along briskly when there is a healthy amount of conversation between Jack Sparrow and Angelica, or Jack Sparrow and Barbossa, or Jack Sparrow and Blackbeard. The dialogue was crisp and the flow was smooth. The score also worked…somewhat. Hans Zimmer returned to deliver a pretty good score, and the themes for Blackbeard and Barbossa work well when they’re interwoven with the right scenes.
What didn’t work? Well, like I mentioned above, the movie moves briskly when the principals are involved with each other. When they’re not – which really does happen a bit – it’s sluggish. There are points in the movie that it’s slow regardless of what the main cast does, but it picks up when they get to White Calf Bay. Until that point, it meanders a bit much. There is also a subplot featuring a Christian missionary and a mermaid that felt completely out of place and I feel the movie would’ve been a whole lot faster without them.
Rob Marshall replaced Gore Verbinski as the director, and he did a fairly decent job with what he was presented. There have been a lot of complaints about the action scenes not being filmed well, and that is pretty true up until the mermaids themselves arrive. When you see them onscreen, they are mystifying…until they reveal their true colors, at which point you’re stunned with what you see. Not only that, another one of their scenes is particularly frightening, and let me just say that those ain’t seagulls you’re hearing. Like I mentioned, Hans Zimmer did the score, and it did work for some parts. At times, the score seemed a bit muted, and that’s not what you expect from a Zimmer scored film.
I enjoyed this movie, but it was painfully obvious that something was missing. There were points that I could have done without, and points I would’ve loved to see more of, but the whole is a sum of its parts. What those parts are is subject to your own interpretation, but it wasn’t that bad. With that in mind, I feel confident in rating this movie three times More Epic than Love Jones, and it’s a competent matinée flick. Whether you choose to see it in 2D (like me) or 3D is up to you, but it’s a pretty good time overall.