May 25, 2011

Movies: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

There was no way I could've had lower expectation for this movie. Not after the tragedy that was Dead Man's Chest and the confused sea fantasy fiasco of At World's End. Still, epic pirate fantasy is epic pirate fantasy and propriety is to be observed, so I put on the ugly glasses and went to see if On Stranger Tides is as bad as people have been saying.

Well, it's not. The movie is pretty mediocre, and the plot unravels at the most cursory of serious thought, but it is still fun and entertaining, even with half the original support cast missing.

The story is set some time after the events of the previous movie. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johny Depp) is yet again crewless, shipless and most likely at a shortage of gold, but for some reason, rumors circulate around London that he is looking for a crew to sail to the Fountain of Youth. Now, Jack does happen to possess the map leading to said Fountain, but everything else about the rumor is false. So he tries to find out who is impersonating him, only to stumble upon his old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who - as it goes - happens to be the daughter of the most horrifying pirate of all time - Black Beard (Ian McShane). Who, on the other hand, happens to be searching for the Fountain himself, on account of a prophecy that says he'll be killed in the next forthnight. Add to that an angry one-legged Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) on a mission from the King of England, and a Spanish force who are also looking for the same thing, and you have the action adventure all ready to go.

Sadly, a lot of it is spent talking and meandering. Not that there is no action, but it seems weirdly lacking from key moments of the script where you'd very much expect it to be in full swing. Still, some scenes are just awesome, key among them - the mermaid hunt - but I would have expected quite a lot more, considering the budget of the movie. Also, I think it's bad form when important plot-elements have no purpose and just fizzle in the end.

On Stranger Tides is missing a lot of players from the previous movies, but the lack of such monstrosities as dear Orlando and Keira has automatically improved the quality of the cast. Cruz and McShane are both brilliant in their poorly scripted roles, both making the most of them and going beyond the call of duty. All in all the acting is superb - even Depp's captain Jack is slightly less absurd than before (which surprisingly makes him cooler). I was expecting the Random Pretty Christian Boy (Sam Claflin) and the Sexy Mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey and I dare you to say that fast three times) to be obnoxiously bad as the previous "young couple" but they are actually very unobtrusive - kind of to the point where the viewers asking themselves why they are even in the movie...

Special effects, when applicable, are good, although the overall blandness dulls their use. The soundtrack consists of the usual Pirates theme - repeated ad nauseum - and practically nothing new. When it comes to eye or ear candy, On Stranger Tides leaves you with the impression of something lukewarm and re-used, as if you're watching a second hand movie that has already been worn out.

But it is still vastly superior to the abomination that was Dead Man's Chest, and in the end, there is not much competition on the epic pirate fantasy front, so I would still say that if you have the money, the movie is worth the price for admission. Nothing you'll tell your grandchildren you were among the first to see, but a decent entertainment for a few lazy hours on a hot day.


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