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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The fourth film in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, directed by Rob Marshall

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A Fun "Pirate-Flavored" Popcorn Summer Film!

  • May 23, 2011

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise have always proven to be profitable, despite its somewhat lackluster sequels. Fans of the original film were a bit disappointed how the sequels didn’t turn out to be as fun. Well, Jerry Bruckheimer and director Rob Marshall tries to return to the sensibilities that made the first film so much fun; taking inspiration from the story “On Stranger Tides” by Tim Powers, Bruckheimer and company seems poised to take back the ’pirate glory’ attained by “Curse of the Black Pearl”. Yes, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” tries to avoid the convoluted storytelling, overwritten scripts that lost its focus, and somewhat empty performances set by “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World's End” and it does; “On Stranger Tides” proves to be a fun movie experience and but now, it seems like the 3rd sequel is a bit lacking in ambition with its narrative.

Barely escaping incarceration in London, Jack Sparrow, (ahem) Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is lured into the quest to find the fountain of youth by Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who is now an agent of the crown of England. Jack also finds an old flame, a spirited woman called Angelica (Penelope Cruz) who is also the daughter of the menacing pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) who seeks out the means to perform a ritual to eternal life. They require certain items and one of them require the tears of a mermaid (played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey) who becomes the apple of the eye of a missionary named Philip (Sam Claflin). Jack must now keep his nose away from the tip of his enemies’ sword, as he also attempts to romance his former love and somehow save the day….

                      Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Penelope Cruz as Angelica and Ian Mcshane as Blackbeard in "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

Keith Richards as Captain Teague in "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."  Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

                   Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D"

Let’s be honest here. Even the original “Pirates” film was based on formula and this was the reason why it was so much fun. I am actually not looking for anything overly ambitious nor am I looking for something groundbreaking, “On Stranger Tides” is a return to popcorn sensibilities, and I cannot fault it for doing what it is supposed to be. It can be argued that after the convoluted and overwritten screenplay dreamed up in the last two sequels, the franchise is needing a rebirth of some sort. You may as well take “On Stranger Tides” as the transitional film that hopefully will introduce new quests and new characters, this isn’t exactly a bad thing if only the film did pay more attention to characterization.

The core of the script in “On Stranger Tides” is the fountain of youth, which may arguably be one of the most overused devices in storytelling. I am not one to complain, as long as the story develops the premise well enough to keep viewers interested and enthralled. I am not sure, the mechanics of the plot were simple enough, and I did like some of the developments in its plotting. I thought the way it uses the elements of adventure and fantasy were coherent and solid enough; the way Barbossa, the mermaids and Angelica kept the plot moving were good, but I felt that the screenplay this time was just too careful. Much as I thought “At World’s End” lost focus, I couldn’t deny that it was ambitious (albeit overreaching). I am not sure, so many factors kept this third sequel from hitting a home run.

                     Ian McShane as Blackbeard in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D"

                     Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

                     Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

I found myself a little dissatisfied with the portrayal of Blackbeard; I found his development a little too uninspired as it relied heavily on Angelica. Barbossa is still marvelously played by Rush, albeit the character was reduced to a one-legged pirate whose dimensions were lost in the way the direction barely scratched the surface to his new changes. Syrena the mermaid and Philip the missionary’s blossoming ‘love’ feels a little empty despite the complications faced by the two. Marshall does have to keep the story about Sparrow, Barbossa and Angelica, and perhaps some characters were meant only for support. But I think the Syrena-Philip subplot was made to compensate for the lost of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.

Not to say that the film was a lost cause. Johnny Depp is still as charismatic as ever as our favorite pirate, albeit some parts of the script threatened to make even Sparrow a little overbearing. Penelope Cruz does make for a great female lead opposite Depp, as she proves to be capable of pulling off her character. Cruz is beautiful, mesmerizing and I could just not keep my eyes off her dressed like a swashbuckler. The cinematography and set designs followed the style set by the first three films, it looks quite gorgeous with the scenes of magic, the supernatural nicely brought forth by its CGI work. Marshall isn’t a great action director though; he fails on the some of the film’s stuntwork and the ones that were good, I thought they didn’t present anything new to the table of our favorite Jack Sparrow. Marshall seemed to drain the momentum it had achieved as some scenes felt a little empty and it drained the personality out of its key characters.

                     Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

                    Gemma Ward as Tamara and Stephen Graham as Scrum in "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

                    Astrid Berges-Frisbey in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

While I thought the film did try to return to the original’s sensibilities, it lacked the ‘spark’ established by Gore Verbinski‘s “Curse of the Black Pearl”. “On Stranger Tides” may be a film easy to like but I just saw the characters struggling to make for some of its hollow characterizations and for the choreographed moves to work, it feels a little stiff on several spots and the swashbuckling tone and mood loses some energy almost as quickly as it achieves them. But there are zombies, there are hot mermaids (wow Gemma Ward!), and a Judi Dench cameo; so yes, “On Stranger Tides” is a formula film meant for popcorn fun. It has the same quirky humor, a decent feeling of adventure and that cream puff sword-battle was just amusing. There is a lot to see but little that is worth a watch, but hey, it may be just a launch pad for a new “Jack Sparrow” adventure; and if this is so, “On Stranger Tides” can still prove to be a fun diversion for many.

Timid Recommendation. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."  Poster art for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."



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November 19, 2012
Great review and pictures too!
May 23, 2011
To be honest, as far as action and adventure goes... Dead Man's Chest was probably the best of the lot in that regard.  The movie never seemed to stop with it.  So I'm not sure if Dead Man's Chest was really all that convoluted since it was a film that was only there to set the stage for the third.  There was hardly any plot whatsoever.  But I actually enjoyed that one.  So I'm not sure if the first sequel was really a let down so much as it was that fans had unrealistic expectations for it.  But also in all honesty, the first film would've been a nightmare had it not been for Depp and Rush as the performances by every other actor (or actress) was absolutely forgettable in Curse of the Black Pearl.  The second had too much action and adventure to give a damn about the acting.  So in that regard, I can't say that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly is much of a loss seeing as how they were the two most bland characters in the whole franchise to begin with.  As I said, the first would've been a nightmare were it not for Depp and Rush.  But likewise, I think the reason the first one worked so far above the other two was because it had sharp and witty dialog.  It was what the other two missed.  The second had that fantastic sense of adventure, but completely lacked the good dialog of the first and that made the second one seem a lot longer than it actually was.  It's the only thing that kept me from liking Dead Man's Chest more than the first one.  It was fun and I particularly enjoyed the part on the wheel but I didn't particularly think any of the story was all that memorable because there was hardly anything which fleshed it out.

The third one, however, is where I thought they were getting in over their heads.  Because they stuffed so much plot into the third film (and absolutely none in the second) the third film was overstuffed because the time they could've used in the second to actually get some plot going we instead got a useless scene that involved Jack and company escaping from cannibals.

So I'm not too nervous with seeing On Stranger Tides because it means that this time it's not two movies split into one and it dumps the two ridiculously boring characters in place of what appears to be at least one slightly more interesting character.

The only thing in your review that I disagree with is that I don't think Pirates has EVER had any sort of character development whatsoever.  The film series has had what's often referred to as "Charisma" but the actual development of any of the characters has always been ridiculously low.  You have to rely a lot more heavily on bits and pieces.  For example, we only learn about a slightly history that Jack and Barbosa have in the first one, that being that Barbosa has taken Jack's ship: The Black Pearl.  Beyond that, Jack Sparrow was a decidedly empty character who only grew to be likable thanks to his charming personality.  In fact he was a better character before they introduced the whole deal he had with Davy Jones and his stupid father.  But the closest we've actually gotten to seeing an actual character "develop" in Pirates was probably Will Turner... and that's only because in the first one they decided it should've been his story.  So I'm not sure if it comes as a surprise that they've done little with the characters here.  You have to use other narrative hints to get an idea of who these characters are it seems.  At least in Pirates.
May 23, 2011
Not arguing with you about Dead Man's Chest, it is pretty action-oriented, I believe it was shot with "World's End" so I guess that was why the 2nd sequel was messy. I did somewhat like the first sequel, but the payoff, which made it a part of sequel 2, made me forget about it. The sequels lost their focus, for me, they weren't bad movies but they were just disjointed and convoluted.

The reason  why I liked the original was because it was fresh, and it stuck to an aura of mysticism and pirate myth that I enjoyed. What I also liked about the first film was how the characterization came from the plot itself, it drove the film's energy, plot, tone and the mood. You learn about Jack, Barbossa and everyone else the longer the mystery of the Black Pearl was revealed. The characterization came from the plot and the characters were driven by the plot. So yes, there is characterization in the franchise, they just get revealed when the story took control.

This film was fun, and it is a launch pad for a new quest. I really had some issues about its elements and some of them, I was left to merely buy into them. I mean, I do hope more will be revealed, I just had issues with some of the film's developments.

But time will tell, and we'll see what happens in the next sequel.....
May 24, 2011
I didn't say there was no characterization (as I said the franchise had "charisma") what I'm saying is that there isn't much character development.  And there isn't.  As I said, you learn little bits and pieces but in terms of any actual development, PIrates of the Caribbean just doesn't have much of it.  Most movies of its kind don't and that's actually not a bad thing.  The original movie was neither harmed nor helped... because what's important is that we like Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner and want to take a ride on their quest with them.  I don't want to suggest that character development will instantly make for better characters... because it doesn't (I was a lot happier NOT knowing Darth Vader's past, for example)... I'm only suggesting that people are confusing the likable nature of the characters in Pirates of the Caribbean for character development.  It may be because I read too many books or something, but I just never found that Pirates of the Caribbean really had a lot of character development.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, only that I think far too many people seem to say that it does.

On the other hand, concerning the two sequels thing... within the past thirty years or so Hollywood hasn't really filmed two sequels at the same time and not connected them.  Right off the bat Lord of the Rings (though that probably shouldn't count) The two Matrix sequels and Back to the Future instantly spring to mind.  I think Pirates of the Caribbean would've worked much better had they taken the Indiana Jones approach and made each film episodic in nature.  It's why I think I'll have more fondness for On Stranger Tides.  It doesn't have to serve as a bridge into something and what comes before it doesn't appear to be too important.
May 24, 2011
oh ok, sorry, Sean, my brain is on allergy meds so please excuse me if I misunderstood some parts of your post. I agree on what you've said then. I guess I just wanted more characterization since we've all learned about Sparrow. I am with you in a way, I can't help connecting the two sequels together and I think you're right it would've worked better if they were episodic. I did like this sequel, but it just didn't hit a home run. you review it yet? love to read it....
May 23, 2011
Yeah I will wait on the DVD/Blu-Ray, glad you reviewed it WP. Also glad to hear Cruz was good in this, for some reason when I watched the trailer I thought she looked out of place for some reason. That was crazy to think because I love her but I did.
May 23, 2011
Cruz was so sexy with those buccaneer boots LOL!
May 23, 2011
"A fun diversion" - oh yeah...Johnny D. can be a diversion for me anytime! I didn't care for the last 2 Pirates movies, and would not have enjoyed them much at all if my man wasn't starring...he plays the sexiest pirate known and I love his characterization of the role (which by the rules of the first film, he was to have played a Burt Lancaster type and he fooled everyone by appearing for filming in wardrobe and makeup he secretly designed himself with his wardrobe lady) and it surprised everyone; "is he drunk, is he gay?" was the first response of the filming crew. Needless to say, had he not invented his own character, the franchise would not have done so well. He also stated before that Jack Sparrow was his favorite role of any he played, so it was no surprise to me he decided to make this film; in fact, he has already signed for the next one! Great review as always, and I will definitely be seeing this one when I get the chance. I also like the idea of Penelope Cruz in it; I like her. Thanks for letting me know you reviewed this one!!!
May 23, 2011
agreed. I heard he played Sparrow as he wanted. He made quite a mark for the character. Depp made mascara on men quite....acceptable LOL! Thanks for the read, Brenda! Penelope was just so hot here...
May 23, 2011
Cruz is one of the few actresses I like (you knowhow picky I am with women on the screen) - and I believe every man should be able to wear the black eyeliner - just too sexy!! LOL
May 23, 2011
hm...woopak with mascara....?
May 23, 2011
Not mascara darlin' - it's the black eyeliner around the eyes that's just tooooo sexxxxxy!!! I'd like to know what brand of liner he uses; it doesn't seem to smudge like mine does LMAO
May 23, 2011
a good excuse for me to use if I use eye-liner would be "I am in a band" LOL! you should google that...
May 23, 2011
That reminds me of Vince in Motley Crue; he wore lots of liner; looked OK at the time, but nobody can have the same effect as my man JD.....yes, look like you're in a band; that would take the attention away from your toe sies LOL
May 23, 2011
did you see Depp in Sleepy Hollow?
May 23, 2011
Only 100 times..LOL LOVED the movie; his fainting and all that made his character more realistic; I really don't like the "tough" guy act that most male characters have in movies. I heard Depp say he was surprised he didn't get kicked off the set of Sleepy Hollow; that was filmed during his rough bad boy days. Did you like it?
May 24, 2011
yeah, I did. Depp was great in that movie and the scene with those glasses was awesome!
May 24, 2011
Yeah ..... all magnified. He gave the movie a great sense of humor.
May 24, 2011
Depp is such a great actor...he's like a chameleon. Much as I like his Jack Sparrow...Depp can take on larger roles...
May 24, 2011
I agree; whatever role he plays, I get into his character so much it leaves an impact on me for a long time. I figure if he could get by with practically playing by himself the role in Secret Window, he can entertain us in just about anything. Not many characters in that film; he talked to himself all the time and looked like a total dweeb, but he still mesmerized me. No other actor can do that to me. The only role I didn't like was in Ninth Gate; I watched it several times and just couldn't get into his role at all, but I did enjoy looking at him!! LOL Question for you: can you think of a movie that he would have been great in instead of who the actual star was?
May 23, 2011
It sounds like a mixed bag. I really liked "Dead Man's Chest" (even more than the first film), but I thought that "At World's End" was just lazily written, directed, and acted. From what I've read, not too many critics have been impressed with this one, but I'll still give it a chance. It's got a good cast, but at the same time, not many franchises do well after two or three films.
May 23, 2011
Stayed that time it looks like.
May 23, 2011
I agree, "Dead Man's Chest" was good by itself but I just didn't like the way its plot was put together in "World's End". This was alright, I liked some parts but as a whole it was a mixed result. I really wanted to like it, but the chaaracterization was hollow.

Ah, good! it is under your "Friends and Fantasy" label finally. I think it was because I saved the draft under the Movie Hype topic before and then I re-wrote it. I guess the system got confused somehow.
May 23, 2011
check out the discussion area in Movie Hype? Superhero hype?
May 23, 2011
Just responded.
More Pirates of the Caribbean: On S... reviews
review by . May 27, 2011
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I recall when the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out that I thought it would be a terrible movie.  In the first place it was based on a theme park ride.  And in the second place it had a horrible title.  When I saw it, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed the clever and witty dialog and I enjoyed the simple, yet fun story.  And best of all, Johnny Depp played one of the most memorable characters in recent cinema: Jack Sparrow.  It was only a matter of …
review by . July 02, 2012
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I skipped this film in theaters last summer because of the bad reviews and negative word of mouth. That was a big mistake. This was the best of the series so far.      Rob Marshall reinvented this series when he took over. There was nothing wrong with the previous storyline, but it had come to its conclusion in At World's End. Keira Knightly's and Orlando Bloom's characters were gracefully written out and the series was ready for something new. Marshall instead of …
review by . May 25, 2011
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   It took me two different screenings to fully absorb Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, one being a midnight screening and the other being a repeat screening with my Dad (it’s one of my favorite traditions). I actually had a chance recently to re-watch the trilogy, and the latter two still stand out as my favorites. I really dug the supernatural parts of the story like Davy Jones and his crew and how things slowly built toward that colossal, one-hour scuffle between …
review by . May 16, 2011
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'Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' 'Two Jews On Film' Say Jump On Board This Ship (Video)
'Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' directed by Rob Marshall is the fourth film of this franchise...And in my opinion, the best.        Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow but this time, except for Geoffrey Rush (Captain Hector Barbossa) and Kevin R. McNally (Joshamee Gibbs) there's a whole new set of characters that may or may not want to do him harm...including the beautiful, enigmatic, Pirate...Angelica (Penelope Cruz).    …
review by . May 20, 2011
Review: Fourth ‘Pirates' Movie Keeps Series Strong
   Usually I find a series to be worn out when they go anywhere beyond a third movie, but Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides changed my opinion on that. Although the 3D scenes made it a little too Disney cheesy, the love and hate banter between Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa, terrifying mermaids, and the new “it” couple made me fall in love all over again with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.      The fourth installment finds Jack, Captain …
review by . May 21, 2011
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Star Rating:         Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio are amazing men. Their screenplays can confuse audiences just as easily as they can entertain. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film in the hugely successfully Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer franchise and the first to be released in 3D, is exuberant fun – and damn near impossible to keep track of. Some of the blame rests on the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, a man known for his lies, trickery, …
review by . June 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   One of our beloved characters has returned back to initiate this franchise into a new trilogy. While is taken as the fourth installment, On Stranger Tides is actually the start of a new trilogy because of the new totally different and unconnected story from the first series.      The main story strangely revolves around the duel between Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard (Ian McShane) building anticipation for the final stage of their on-going battle. …
review by . May 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Here’s a sequence from the new Pirates of the Caribbean flick: Penelope Cruz is Angelica, and Ian McShane is Blackbeard her father.  Johnny Depp is, of course, Jack Sparrow (there should be a captain in there somewhere.) They are searching for the Fountain of Youth.  Depp leads the way, but they come to a giant, uncrossable chasm.  For some unexplained reason, someone must jump into the chasm.  Cruz volunteers, but McShane says no – Depp must do it.  Depp balks, …
review by . August 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
For number 4 in this series, this bad boy isn't a stinker. I did miss Bloom and Knightley, but Depp is still good/bad ol Cap'n Jack, and Rush is back as well bringing his creepy elements to the whole story. Penelope Cruz adds a little feminine touch as the daughter (? is she or isn't she?)  of the infamous Blackbeard.      And speaking of feminine touch. I will NEVER look at a mermaid quite the same way again. Shudder. Who knew?      If you …
review by . May 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Do Not Board.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES   Written by Ted Eliott and Terry Rossio   Directed by Rob Marshall   Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush and Ian McShane       Barbosa: You haven’t changed.   Jack Sparrow: Implying the need.       It’s fitting really that the fourth installment in Disney’s PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series, ON STRANGER TIDES, finds everyone’s …
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Director: Rob Marshall
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: May 20, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Terry Rossio, Ted Elliott
Runtime: USA: 141 min
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
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