How it should have ended – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
June 27, 2011 6 Comments
You know the story: boy meets girl, girl gets captured by cursed pirates, boy blackmails healthy-but-otherwise-insane pirate, boy becomes pirate, boy saves girl, boy becomes Davey Jones, girl becomes pirate. It’s as old as the hills. Not The Hills, obviously, because that’s – what – only in its fifth season?
Anyway, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was settling into a nice little rut when overlord Disney decided it was high-time for a series overhaul. If you’ve seen On Stagnant Stranger Tides, you’ll know that this amounted to removing boy (Orlando Bloom’s earnest Will Turner) and girl (Keira Knightly’s corseted Elizabeth Swann) and replacing them with the even less inspired coupling of an expressionless preacher and a damp mermaid. How very innovative.
While there were many, many problems with the latest installment – it was no fun, the villain had poorly drawn abilities, Penelope Cruz, the plot was mercilessly contrived, Penelope Cruz, Jack Sparrow was constantly left without anyone to banter with – one of its biggest problems was the crackpot of an ending. Should we recap?
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Act 3 (roughly).
Jack Sparrow has agreed to take Blackbeard to the Fountain of Youth in exchange for Gibbs’ freedom and the return of his beloved magical compass. Stood atop a massive gorge, Blackbeard – who at this point has no other method of finding the fountain – asks Jack to jump to his near-certain death. As incentive, one of Blackbeard’s minion zombies (don’t worry, they’re not the flesh-eating variety) throws a voodoo doll made in Jack’s likeness over the cliff. Jack jumps to protect it somehow surviving unharmed without even having rescued the doll, presumably proving it useless.
Locating the entrance – and with the Spaniards and British (lead for no apparent reason by Captain Barbossa) in hot pursuit – Jack acquires entry for Blackbeard and his zombie crew. When the others arrive anyway, however, a great skirmish breaks out as the Spaniards attempt to destroy the fountain, Barbossa attempts to avenge his missing leg by killing Blackbeard, Phillip (our missionary from earlier) sets out to save his marooned girl-fish-friend despite his mortal wound, and Jack tries to…well, something.
When the Spaniards succeed in bringing down the fountain, and Blackbeard is finally run through with Barbossa’s poisoned sword (an act which also poisons daughter Angelica), Jack must mince to the rescue, desperate as he is to save dutiful Angelica from her manipulative father who, because he’s EEEVIL, wishes his daughter to sacrifice her life by drinking from the cursed chalice. Playing the old switcheroo, Jack succeeds in saving his love, to her own chagrin. With Barbossa having disappeared with Blackbeard’s boat, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Jack reunites with Gibbs who has found the Black Pearl encased in a glass bottle.
In a post-credits sequence – if you were hardcore enough to wait for it – it is revealed that Angelica, who was left on a desert island with one bullet (like Jack was preceding the events of the first film), has somehow got her hands on the voodoo doll last seen being flung from a cliff on another island altogether. She smiles. Someone should.
Pirates of the Caribbean 4 didn’t have to be awful. With the wealth of flagellation expounded by critics following the dire third installment, there should have been ample red-penned annotations for Disney to follow to box office and critical success. Rather than ignoring the previous trilogy, On Stranger Tides should have embraced it. Rather than continue the franchise’s trademark knotted narrative, this sequel should have simplified it. Rather than continue to get darker and more grandiose, Pirates 4 should have rediscovered is funny bone.
While all valid criticisms, I nevertheless propose that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides could have been saved by simply using a different ending. Up on the cliff Jack should have gained the upper hand and demanded answers: Why the Hell did Angelica pose as Jack in the opening of the movie? What exactly are Blackbeard’s ambiguous magic powers? Why is the monkey the only remaining character aboard the Black Pearl? He should have escaped with the missionary and his mermaid, giving him someone to at least be funny opposite.
Arriving at the fountain, Jack enters, unaware that he is being followed by three different parties. As there are only two chalices, and one mermaid tear, the main action takes place in the gravity defying cave as opposed to inside the fountain’s chamber – where logic dictates only a few can gain access. Desperate to save Angelica, and with only the Spanish still competing for eternal youth, Jack and the commander use the tear to gain access and flesh out the latter’s character and motives for the first time during the entire movie. Jack gets the required sample moments before the fountain is destroyed and saves Angelica at the expense of her father.
Phillip, meanwhile, rescues his mermaid from her moorings and is pulled under the water. Rather than ending there, however, THE FILM ACTUALLY EXPLAINS WHERE THEY DISAPPEAR TO (Davey Jones’ locker for a fleeting cameo?). Angelica vows her revenge, so Jack leaves her alone on the same island on which he was once abandoned with Elizabeth.
In the post-credits sequence, the voodoo doll stays at the bottom of the gorge, missing its final appearance but adhering to the laws of probability. Instead, Penelope Cruz sits in the sand, practicing a series of new and decidedly more thespian facial expressions, when (lo and behold) a pair of sea turtles wash up in front of her. She smiles. Boom.