Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, PG-13)

The novelty of Depp’s performance as Captain Jack Sparrow has worn off, which makes the audience all the more aware of how bad the movie really is.



In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Johnny Depp launched himself into mainstream cinema in a way few actors have ever done before with a character so original and unique that audiences couldn’t get enough. Critics had praised Depp’s performances for over a decade and he was known to be one of the most versatile and talented actors of his generation. Now, with the fourth installment of the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the novelty of Depp’s performance as Captain Jack Sparrow has worn off, which makes the audience all the more aware of how bad the movie really is.

Gore Verbinski, the very capable director who helmed the first three movies, did not return for the fourth. Instead, Disney handed the duties over to Rob Marshall, director of Chicago and Nine, who is easily one of the least talented or creative filmmakers working today. His narrow-sighted vision as a director makes his films a series of quick cuts and snapshots of action without any sense of overarching coherence.

The plots of the Pirates movies have become increasingly convoluted and unnecessarily lengthy; On Stranger Tides is no exception. In the movie, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is forced on a mission to find the fountain of youth that he alone has seen with his own eyes. The beautiful and deceptive Angelica (Penelope Cruz) tricks Jack into the adventure, which is being led by the notoriously evil Blackbeard (Ian McShane). At the same time, Jack’s nemesis, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), is leading a similar mission funded by King George (Richard Griffiths).

The only improvement On Stranger Tides makes on the previous movies is to jettison the unnecessary and boring love story between Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. Depp is now front and center of the story, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. As an actor, Depp is incredibly charismatic and engaging. He has consistently given some of the best performances of the last 20 years, but it is now time to retire Captain Jack Sparrow for good. The character is no longer entertaining and Depp would do well to end it on a (relatively) high note.

The story is absolutely absurd due to the excessive reliance on magical powers and mythical creatures to move the story forward. An interesting addition to the franchise is the group of mermaids that make an appearance in On Stranger Tides. Though beautiful and alluring, they are apparently vampire-like cannibals with the web-slinging capabilities of Spider-Man. (Trust me, it doesn’t make much sense in the movie either.)

The elements that made the first film so exciting and entertaining were the grand action sequences and set pieces that made it feel like a real swashbuckling adventure. Marshall has scrapped all that and has instead opted for embarrassingly fake sets and quick editing that gives the audience no other choice but to focus on the poor production value. Any other director might have been able to save the movie, but Marshall is so incapable that even the simplest storytelling techniques elude him. | Matthew F. Newlin



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