Captain Jack has Returned to Port

In 2003, we were introduced to Captains Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa and it was a wonderful time to be alive. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl were two things that were not seen on the silver screen in a very long time: a straight up, period-piece pirate film; and a screen adaptation of a Disney attraction that didn’t suck (Tower of Terror, Mission to Mars, AND the Country Bears all came before it).

The film’s success would have made you think that there would have been a plethora of new pirate films being made and we as a movie-watching public, could have re-entered into a new golden age of piracy (on film). This, rather unfortunately, did not happen, what did happen was that we got three sequels that are all of varying quality. My opinion is that all of the movies are, at the least, fun to watch. Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were definitely convoluted in plot and Orlando Bloom can’t act his way out of tissue paper, but the movies are still very enjoyable if only for Captain Jack Sparrow (yes, I will refer to him by his full name and title for this entire review), Barbossa, and Davy Jones.

As for my opinion of On Stranger Tides, well isn’t that what you are here for?

On Stranger Tides of course follows our favourite constantly-drunk-off-of-rum pirate Captain, Captain Jack Sparrow as he seeks out the Fountain of Youth with a woman from his past, Anjelica (played by the gorgeous Penelope Cruz), her daddy, Blackbeard (Ian McShane, some Voodoo zombies, a very forgettable missionary (who I guess was supposed to be the replacement for Orlando Bloom as some eye candy for women), and other assorted crew members; all while encountering some genuinely creepy Mermaids, Spaniards seeking the fountain, and of course the now-privateer Barbossa and the Royal Navy. Considering that it is a Pirates of the Caribbean film, hilarity and hijinks ensue. Also, Blackbeard has the coolest ship in the Pirates universe. The Queen Anne’s Revenge can beat any of the other ships hands down, what with it’s Greek Fire and all.

This particular Pirates film had a change in director, as Gore Verbinski left the films to work on other projects (like his BioShock film that will probably never get off the ground), and he was replaced by Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Nine director, Rob Marshall. All-and-all, the film does not feel very different from the other Pirates films as Hans Zimmer is still doing the very large and bombastic music and Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio are still in charge of the story and screenplay department.

Johnny Depp gives essentially the same performance as he did in the previous films, but the humour is much less slapstick and more based off of his consistently great performance as the Captain, the same can be said about Geoffrey Rush’s performance as Barbossa. The lack of a leg definitely changes up his performance a little, though. Really the only stand out new performance out of the bunch is Penelope Cruz as Captain Jack Sparrow’s on-and-off love interest/enemy Anjelica.

She manages to be everything that is needed for the character simultaneously. She can clash blades like any of the veteran players, she can pull off the acting needed for the role, and can still be both a viable love interest and eye candy (which is something that Keira Knightly seemed to struggle with in At World’s End). Ian McShane, while being a pretty imposing Blackbeard, doesn’t have much to work with in the movie as Blackbeard is a very one-sided character. Overall, there really isn’t anything special in the rest of the cast.

The lack of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley definitely makes the movie a bit better. In the second and third Pirates movies, their story really took centre stage, despite there being much larger and grander events going on in the Caribbean. The fact that there were these two large plots running concurrently with each other is what most of the problems with those films stemmed from. When I would describe the most recent Pirate films to people, the route that would usually be taken is the “You know all the stuff you didn’t like about the previous films? Yeah, that stuff is gone” and it seems to have worked out. On Stranger Tides is tighter and much closer to the original film in quality. I hope that Disney looks at what they changed in this film and apply it to the inevitable sequels that are forthcoming.

The only thing left on my mind is that there is one major reference to the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, and it is based off of one of my favourite scenes in the Disneyland version of the attraction, but I will leave you all to figure out which scene it is in the movie.

If ye come seekin’ adventure and salty ol’ pirates, aye? Sure ye come to the proper place as ultimately, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is just a fun, summer action movie.

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