Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I must admit that I was a fan of the original Pirates of the Caribbean. It spoke to my inner child with sword fights and boat battles. It gave a fresh new life to a forgotten genre in cinematic history; in the same way On Stranger Tides is trying to breathe new life into an old franchise and maybe take a different look at the series. They’ve mixed new with the old adding Penelope Cruz and Director Rob Marshall and bringing back the infamous Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp. So, how could they go wrong? Just throw in some new chase scenes where Jack evades his captors in a witty manner and blow up some ships. Voilà, you’re done, on to Pirates Six. Well that’s what I hoped could have happened with On Stranger Tides, the latter is a bit more mediocre and a lot less “Piratey”.

This time around Jack is on his own leaving Will Turner and Ms. Swann by the wayside and on his way to find the infamous fountain of youth. He’s not alone in this search though, as Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard (Ian McShane) have also set their eyes on discovering the mysterious fountain. Tricked by Angelica (Cruz), Jack finds himself a part of Blackbeard’s crew, scrubbing decks and planning a mutiny. A now captive Jack Sparrow must figure out how to escape Blackbeard, win over the girl and discover the fountain on his own. Throw in a ton of plot holes and you have On Stranger Tides.

I’m not one to focus on loop holes though, it’s to be expected from a summer epic. I lean more to the motto of “Shut up and enjoy the ride” when it comes to films like Pirates of the Caribbean. The problem is Pirates isn’t much of a ride, taking it’s cues more from the animatronic boat ride and less from it’s action-packed predecessors. The film lacks the summer action I was looking for. Leaving the cannon battles aside and ditching the over-the-top sword fights for dialog? Yep it’s true.

I really can’t believe it myself even though I’ve seen the movie I still am in hopes that we were missing a reel of action-packed greatness. Though saying the film is a total disaster is a little naive, it does bring some fun and laughs to the table. I enjoyed the addition of Penelope Cruz as Jack’s long lost fling. Cruz and Depp have a great chemistry together and definitely add a new flare to the franchise.  It’s just not enough flare to save the film. Another great addition to the film is it’s take on mermaids and the dynamic between the mermaid Syrena and her new savior Phillip. The mermaid battle, while one of the few battles in the film, does a great job adding something new to the franchise. The beautiful but deadly mermaids are viscous and the scene plays out like a mix between The Cove and a horror film. If the scene was a film itself I could see the tag line saying, ” The Cove 2: This time Flipper gets his revenge!” but, kidding aside it does add a fresh face to an old story. I can only guess that this was the idea of the whole film, staying away from old stereotypes. I applaud their effort, I really do, but a film like Pirates of the Caribbean shines in those old stereotypes. They are known for their overly epic sword fights and hull-busting ship battles. It’s just too bad that On Stranger Tides forgot all of that.

While the film is missing it’s fair share of sword play it has fallen into the new stereotype of Summer Blockbuster 3D. While shot in 3D the film isn’t enhanced or hurt by the addition. I never was taken back by the inclusion of the medium, but I wasn’t pulling off my glasses and rubbing my temples like other 3D films. There are a few good sword gags though out the film but nothing that makes the film worth shelling out a few more dollars on.

To say that the film is bad would be cutting it too short and to say that it’s good would be going too far. On Stranger Tides falls right in the middle. It’s mildly entertaining and possibly worth a watch. It’s just nothing that you need to rush out and see. Though I’m sure the film will do well on it’s opening weekend I’m not sure it will have mush life after that and with Depp putting the breaks on further sequels I’m not sure if this franchise will either.

I give On Stranger Tides 2.5 ” Zombie Dolphins” out of 5

By Ryan Davis


About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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