May 23, 2011

[Movies] Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)There's something about trilogies that seems all nice and neat for movies. When you start going beyond the third installment, it more often than not results in increasingly bad stories and principal actors associated with the franchise dropping out in order to prioritize other projects.

I was never particularly for or against this particular franchise. As a kid I enjoyed the original Disneyland ride that the movies were based around but that's beyond it. I never really developed a particular affinity for the whole pirate genre since it always seemed a tad primitive and way too...dirty, at least for me. I'm a bit of a neat freak at random moments in the day, so the rather accurate depictions of pirates in these movies always grossed me out on some fundamental level.

But when the news broke that this franchise was pushing in the dangerous waters known as the fourth installment, I was initially skeptical about their chances for success. I mean seriously, how many movies can you say that you loved the fourth edition, apart from maybe Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home, but that's just me. The initial buzz had Orlando Bloom as the focus of the movie, but thankfully the folks behind the scenes realized the error of this decision and went with the right bloke.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name. Unlike the other movies, it was directed by Rob Marshall although still produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and with a screenplay by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott.

After an undetermined amount of time since the last movie, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is now in London just as rumors have started to spread that he's recruiting a crew to search for the Fountain of Youth. After the usual entanglements with the local authorities, Jack goes on to figure out who the impostor is in order to ensure his relatively "good" name is not sullied further.

It turns out his impostor is a actually a woman - one from Jack's past. Angelica (Penélope Cruz) was once Jack's lover and is now proclaiming that she's the daughter of the notorious pirate captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Eventually Jack finds himself part of Blackbeard's crew in a race to find the Fountain while Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) (now a privateer in King George II's navy) and the Spanish are in hot pursuit to locate the Fountain first.

Jack SparrowImage via WikipediaI can't imagine the Pirates franchise without Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow and this movie really reminded us of that fact. Every ridiculous fight scene that he's involved in is either a demonstration of his amazingly chaotic intelligence or just sheer dumb luck that follows him around like a lost dog. My partner and I spent some time trying to translate Jack into a White Wolf RPG character and the end result was pretty crazy. Can you say 7 again on Dexterity rolls?

There was a fair amount of critic's buzz around Ian McShane's performance as Blackbeard. Many felt he stole the show from Jack, but I didn't really see that. Sure he was a pretty striking actor but I don't think he was that pivotal in terms of the movie as a whole. Plus I wish there had been more of an explanation for his whole voodoo schtick given the real persona of Blackbeard in popular fiction. Still, he did his job and was pretty good at it all the same.

Kudos to Penélope Cruz for a pretty great performance all throughout plus her amazing impersonation of Jack Sparrow. And the same goes for Geoffrey Rush who has really grown into the role of Barbossa). But I think a lot of you girls and gay boys would agree that we have to take a moment to acknowledge Sam Claflin as Philip Swift, the hottest missionary in the world. I mean come on, since when did Christian missionaries look like THAT? Especially after he took of his shirt! Seriously! Major fuzzy hotness action going on right there and it certainly caught my partner's attention.

The movie has a whole was entertaining with some great fight scenes and some wonderful kickass moments. I can forgive the often confused and scrambled plot given (1) I never really expect much from a movie like this and (2) this is still a Disney production that had to remain relatively kid-friendly in order to reach a larger audience. If anything, I have to admit that the movie did work for me and it was nice to be no longer encumbered by the cloying romance between Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly)

Oh, and watch out for cameos by Keith Richards and Dame Judi Dench. I just wish we had more screen time for her!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a fun expansion of the franchise and I just might look forward to additional sequels. It gets 4 madcap escapes by Jack out of a possible 5.

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