Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Based on the subtitle, this fourth installment seemed to be heading in a different direction, but instead still keeps a formulaic approach centering on a well-known myth (the Fountain of Youth), familiar characters, clever dialogue and entertaining action sequences. The subtitle also refers to the adaptation of Tim Powers’ 1987 historical fantasy novel, which also inspired LucasArts’ Monkey Island game series.

Set in 1750, this fantasy swashbuckler, directed by Rob Marshall, has Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, paired with Angelica, played by Penelope Cruz who spearhead a new quest that has the attention of several parties. Jack also delves into his past with Angelica (flashback sequences would have been ideal for her character and the overall plot) and the current whereabouts of his ship, The Black Pearl.

Angelica’s character arc and (actual and potential) relationships with other characters never really come with a payoff or even basic appeal. Her ultimate resolution reflects the franchise more than her individual character, which is what this series usually excels at. Cruz was pregnant at the time and got a nice assist from her sister Monica, so it became a dual-acted role. Still her addition did not really add much and hopefully she won’t be in any future installments (though the bonus scene after the ending credits might suggest otherwise).

Ian McShane plays the infamous pirate Blackbeard who yields special powers as he helms the Queen Anne’s Revenge while Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Hector Barbossa among non-pirate alliances. Kevin McNally also returns as Joshamee Gibbs, Jack’s first mate as these two make his moves to ensure their survival.

A mission-bound set of notable Spaniards also factor into the mix along with mermaids including one played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword).

Prominent non-pirate characters include Richard Griffiths who plays King George II while Sam Claflin plays Philip, a missionary who’s caught up in these circumstances and demonstrates his true character throughout the plot.

Keith Richards returns as Jack’s father, Captain Teague, and gets some great dialogue in sequences mainly with Jack. Even that famous monkey makes a couple appearances while Important objects include special chalices, a voodoo doll and Jack’s special compass.

The filming locations provide varied appeal beginning with a fun sequence in London, England (complete with a priceless Judi Dench cameo) then progressing settings in California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Marshall sets a constant tone, but he and his crew include too many location transition shots. The two-hour and 16-minute running time is relatively short within this film series, but too long overall.

Hans Zimmer handles the roaring musical score again while Dariusz Wolski (The Martian, Prometheus) boosts the aesthetics with his sharp, consistent cinematography.

Recommended with reservations (** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for sexual content/nudity, language and some violence.

Original theatrical release was the first in this series in the Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX 3D formats.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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