movie film review | chris tookey

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

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  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Review
Tookey's Rating
2 /10
Average Rating
4.20 /10
Johnny Depp , Penelope Cruz , Geoffrey Rush
Full Cast >

Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio based on the story On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

Released: 2011
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 136

Commerce-driven cinema at its most worthless.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Johnny Depp (pictured left) has admitted he signed up for this film before he read the screenplay. This does not surprise me, especially as Disney offered him 55.5 million dollars to make it. If he had read the script, the most honourable response would have been to throw himself into the mouth of a great white shark and do us all a favour.

The first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies were exuberantly inventive, high-spirited swashbucklers that married traditional Errol Flynn-style heroics to modern digital effects. They had a sense of humour that poked fun at the old pirate sagas such as The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood and The Crimson Pirate, but cheerfully reproduced their cliches in loving detail.

By blowing the cobwebs off the genre and fashioning top-class family entertainment, they spawned a billion-dollar franchise so popular that even the third of the series, a huge disappointment and a storytelling disaster, managed to turn a 660,000-dollar profit and became the ninth highest-grossing film of all time.

The fourth in the series is less creative than its own marketing campaign. It defies criticism, since quality is clearly irrelevant to its success or otherwise. It is loud, bombastic and extravagantly boring.

Although the shortest Pirates sequel yet, it feels excruciatingly long. 136 minutes is a long time for any film, but hellishly bloated for a movie with no characters to root for, a story with no depth or interesting twists, and 3D gimmickry that seem to have been added as an afterthought.

Since virtually nothing happens that demands emotional or intelligent involvement, the picture affords plenty of opportunities to check how it looks without 3D glasses. Most of it is better without, since the specs only darken the images and make the characters look like cardboard cut-outs, an impression deepened by the shockingly poor dialogue and feeble characterisation.

The good news is that there’s no drippy Orblando Gloom or wooden Keira Tritely this time round. But, sad to say, an increasingly tiresome Depp fills the gap created by their noble decision to walk the plank.

In the first two Pirates movies, Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was a chirpy trickster, and one of the silver screen’s most iconic scoundrels since Han Solo. I distinctly remember hailing this as a great comic performance, and the first Pirates movie even won Depp an Oscar nomination.

At the fourth time of asking, however, he minces and flounces with no light behind the eyes, as though his mind is on his next assignation with Tim Burton.

As his romantic interest, Penelope Cruz (pictured right) manages to be neither romantic nor interesting. Depp and Cruz don’t strike sparks off each other, even though they are meant to be old flames. She looks feisty and Spanish, and evidently thinks this is enough.

There’s an even cheesier romantic subplot, acted out by hunky Sam Claflin as a Christian missionary and pretty Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a lovelorn mermaid, but this seems to be just an excuse for more cod-awful acting.

Reprising his performance as the previously dead but now mysterious revived Captain Barbossa, Geoffrey Rush amuses himself, if not us, with a joyless, third-rate impersonation of Robert Newton playing Long John Silver.

As the principal villain, Blackbeard Teach, Ian McShane is quite obviously bored and upstaged by his own facial hair. He’s about as lively as Osama Bin Laden.

There are a couple of mildly entertaining but very brief cameos by Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow’s daffy dad, and Judi Dench as a nameless arisocrat. His role is to look like an indifferently reanimated corpse. Hers is to be kissed in a carriage by Depp, look befuddled and utter the line “Is that it?” Her comment is, however, the most appropriate critical response to the entire movie.

The only moments the film comes alive are a couple of action sequences, notably one when mermaids attack, like a school of murderous mackerel. But not even this has the flair of equivalent scenes in the first two Pirates movies.

The film as a whole is not as incomprehensible as the third Pirates film, but every bit as tedious, with vast gobs of exposition delivered by actors who deserve better, and hardly any attempts by screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to supply recognisable human motivation. The leading actors may all be after the fountain of eternal youth, but on this evidence they would be better advised to pursue the possibility of early retirement. The film leaves them looking old, wet and exhausted.

Rob Marshall directs even more anonymously than his predecessor, Gore Verbinski. There is none of the panache or enthusiasm that Marshall brought to Chicago.

The film reeks of weariness, idleness and contempt for its audience. Utterly lacking the romance and charm of the first two pictures, it’s soulless and corporate, generating zero interest in any of its characters. Like the oceans it sails, it’s unfathomable.

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