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Adventure Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Genre Adventure

Blackbeard, Barbarossa, Captain Kidd and Davy Jones would’ve rolled in their sea graves if they’d known fictional pirates like Long John Silver, Captain Hook and Captain Jack Sparrow would become more famous than them. Well, as real as Keith Richards is… he’s no pirate – not the way we think at least! Johnny Depp’s famous pirate characterisation of the legendary Rolling Stones rocker has become probably the most iconic pirate in history after the rollicking success of theme park ride turn multi-million dollar franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean. Forget Treasure Island, the Disney series has resurrected pirate culture to the point that people have started to take Talk like a Pirate Day a bit more seriously.

Arr, it’s a pop culture phenomenon alright, me maties… running long enough for a trilogy and then some. A couple of decades ago, when kids still knew what VHS meant – movie franchises only had three strikes, unless you were Rocky… making the count to 10. Nowadays you can literally walk the plank in part 1, get swallowed by a tick-tocking crocodile in part 2, get rescued by mermaids in part 3 and be home in time to watch part 4 with 5 on the back burner. Branding, sequels… it’s become an absolute circus in Hollywood with producers resurrecting Indiana Jones, Rambo and Die Hard!?!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is probably the last fish in the barrel, but they’ll keep shooting. Initially, Jack Sparrow was a supporting character… nominated as such for an Oscar. However, the popular dread-locked party pirate has become the main protagonist and not by any fault of Orlando Bloom or that wistful British pouter. Johnny Depp deserves the acknowledgement for a character well done, followed by a pat on the back. The problem with doing away with a character like Will Turner is that you’ve got no point of reference for the audience.

There’s no standard for normalcy… giving Jack free reign, the fantasy element a life of its own and overpopulating the script with bloody pirates! This is the tragedy that is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. They’re stranger because we’ve lost the audience’s somewhat anonymous “avatar” and left to fend for ourselves in the world of magic, piracy and swashbuckling. To make matters worse, there’s no salty British sea dog to poke fun at and take the role of worthy adversary.

Without the weathered Brit or Spaniard captain, there’s very little to stop the Pirates of the Caribbean cabaret from staying for an extended season. Rob Marshall can direct beautiful films, has directed lavish musicals like Chicago… but treading water with ship wreckage is hugely underrated director, Gore Verbinski’s job. It’s like choosing to shoot The Hobbit without Peter Jackson… very wrong! The same Verbinski-Depp magic is missing and our new director fumbles around in the dark probably with his principal star on contract.

Fortunately, the same high production values are there with some creative stunt work and storytelling. Although it has that… “haven’t we seen this all before” feeling. You’ll recognise the same epic crashing soundtrack and for all intents and purposes the same sets have just been remodeled from The Curse of the Black Pearl. We’ve got the wonderful addition of Captain Blackbeard, but apart from a solid introduction for Ian McShane the character is left high and dry without any “pirate all pirates fear” moments going forward.

The 3D technology adds an immersive quality to the production, which helps keep the audience engaged. However, the story is less captivating as the crew search for the elusive fountain of youth. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbossa on the British navy’s side in an interesting move and they’ve broached religion with a missionary on-board the adventure. The filmmakers have made enough changes to refresh the series, but it still feels stale and a bit dead in the water.

Sparrow isn’t as funny or lively as usual and all the attention’s relentlessly placed on Depp, who has to perform like a monkey. Any sense of realism has been squeezed out of the series… making it seem out-of-grasp for many audiences, who need the anchor of reality to keep the action-adventure bubbling over. The new sequel would be a worthy effort if it weren’t for the excellent consistency of Gore Verbinski’s trilogy up to now making Rob Marshall’s fourth installment in the series entertaining, forgivable yet disappointing.

The bottom line: Mediocre



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