Movie Review - Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
A former student of Spartanburg Technical College and overall geek, I enjoy listening to music, reading books, playing video games, and watching movies. Sometimes I write about them.View all articles by Adrian Tallent
Johnny Depp returns to his legendary role of Captain Jack Sparrow with pluck and aplomb, this time as the film’s lead. While attempting to assemble a crew and get a ship to find the legendary Fountain of Youth and fulfill his grandiose fantasies of immortality, he learns that someone in London has been impersonating him toward the same goal. Upon his arrival in London, he quickly tracks down his old first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally), who at first seems to be the Jack Sparrow imposter. He frees his old friend from a London courtroom only to get captured himself and taken before King George II of Britain (Richard Griffiths). The King, it turns out, has heard of Sparrow’s interest in the Fountain, and desires it for himself, not being in the best of health thanks to his extravagant opulent lifestyle. He tries to saddle Sparrow with his old nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush); trying on a new role as a privateer for the British after losing The Black Pearl and his leg to the dreaded pirate Blackbeard. The two are tasked with securing the fountain before the Spanish can find it, but Jack manages to escape from the British only to run into the real Jack Sparrow impersonator, who turns out to be Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) con artist daughter (Penelope Cruz).
The first thing you’ll notice about the film is that it has been drastically scaled down compared to its predecessors. Many of the tertiary characters that made the first three films fun are gone, the director choosing instead to focus on a core group of characters and shuffle them around throughout the plot. This keeps things much tighter and more focused this time around, which resolves a complaint filmgoers had about the second and third Pirates films. Depp has to work harder to make Jack work as a leading man rather than a supporting role; he clicks in some scenes but it ends up being Rush who steals most of the scenes, proving to handle Barbossa with a versatility that goes beyond whatever they have the character doing at the moment. Penelope Cruz is a welcome replacement for the former female lead Keira Knightley, who fans came to dislike by the third film thanks to her increasing importance as the central figure in a bloated plot. She serves as Jack’s romantic interest in a love-hate relationship that seems sometimes amusing, sometimes nonsensical, though both actors give their best go at it and manage to make it seem…not as stupid as it probably sounds; at least, in some scenes. Blackbeard makes a great foil for everyone, and does a good job keeping the film anchored. McShane plays the role with a deceptive disinterest, seeming perpetually the calm in the middle of a storm of cold-blooded fury. It sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. He professes to love his daughter, but displays an alarming lack of sympathy toward her, which Jack Sparrow is quick to pick up on. A true pirate, he only seems to care about the other characters when it serves his interest.