Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Pirates of the Caribbean is a franchise shrouded in denial. Impossible to determine how much time has elapsed since numb bums left seats at world’s end, the latest instalment of the Disney money maker finds Captain Jack Sparrow alive and mincing in a series of needless subplots that ensure proceedings sail past the traditional two hour marks for reasons best left in Davy Jones’ locker. So then, what of the actual plot?

On Stranger Tides opens with a daring rescue, as Jack Sparrow infiltrates the high court to spring his former First Mate, Joshamee Gibbs, who is on trial for piracy. When the jail-break goes awry, Jack finds himself in chains before King George II who wishes to beat a batallion of Spaniards to the legendary Fountain of Youth. When it is revealed that Jack is to sail once again under Captain Barbosa – now a privateer in the Kings navy for reasons yet to be satisfactorily explained – who lost Sparrow’s precious Black Pearl to the infamous pirate Blackbeard, the spritely pirate escapes into the arms of old flame Angelica, a wronged lover found to be recruiting a crew for Blackbeard himself. With both parties eager to reach the fountain first, and the Spanish armada in hot pursuit, the usual smattering of supernatural enemies and pandemic matinee quickly ensues.

Supposedly having learnt from past mistakes and now under new management (Rob Marshall was brought in to replace Gore Verbinski), On Stranger Tides promised a honed and revitalised new start for the ailing franchise. With Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly unceremoniously dropped as squabbling plot devices Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, and with Marshall showing little time for the instalments that came before, this clean slate is unfortunately not the return to form many were hoping for. Apparently aware of Jack Sparrow’s inability to support an entire movie, the filmmakers have undermined their innovations with a whole new set of woeful characters that fail to generate the swashbuckling atmosphere that made the first to instalments work so well.

What is the point, Mr. Marshall, of canning one damp nomance only to introduce another, altogether less entertaining equivalent in its place? Rather than feeling fresh and rejuvenated with a new cast of characters, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides forfeits all novelty in the studios desperation to stick to the original’s blockbusting formula. Unfortunately, these new additions lack to charm and good will of the original trilogy, with the requisite musical cues and genre touches acting as a reminder of old when they should be entertaining in their own right. While the last instalment was far from perfect – barely treading acceptable at times – never felt like a choresome ticking of boxes.

Rather than confronting the issues harmonised by the planet’s critics, Marshall’s apparent overhaul never makes it beneath the skin. Where the latter episodes disappeared into a convoluted tangle of double/triple/quadruple crosses and an overcomplicated juggle of subplots, On Stranger Tides is no different. Sparrow, Gibbs and Barbosa spend so much time jumping between ships that the film never settles into the effortless fun that audiences have come to expect. As the list of items the characters must collect grows, any joviality is lost in a jigsaw of narrative clutter. What should simply have been a back-to-basics jolly roger instead becomes a tedious treading of water.

Doing little to alleviate the dizzyingly needless intricacy of series stalwarts Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio’s script is the apparently blasé approach to lighting. Everyone knows that 3D, while otherwise fantastic as a medium, dims the image onscreen. When moonlit sward fights and mermaid hunts are barely visible in 2D, it becomes near impossible to keep tabs on the action from behind a pair of what are effectively 3D sunglasses.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, then, is a pale imitation of a once great, and then at least competent, franchise; a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns in action. Shot in the dark and depriving Jack Sparrow of a sparring partner (wasting the character in the thankless role of straight man), this latest adaptation of a Disneyland attraction is anything but a roller-coaster ride, providing almost zero swash for your buckle.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

  1. Pingback: May 2011 – I’m killing ‘em, I’m killing ‘em straight. « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: Fails of the Year – 2011 « popcornaddict

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