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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Keith Richards, Gemma Ward, Judi Dench
DIRECTED BY
Rob Marshall
SCREENPLAY
Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie (Characters), Jay Wolpert (Characters), Tim Powers (Novel, "On Stranger Tides")
MPAA RATING
Rated PG
RUNNING TIME
136 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Walt Disney Studios
DVD EXTRAS
Blu-Ray extras include:
  • "An Epic At Sea": The Making of Pirates
  • "Fly On The Set" Featurettes
  • Bloopers of the Caribbean
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes
  • "Below Deck": An Interactive History of Pirates
  • Plus Much, Much More
 "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" Review 
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Ignore the haters.

Trust me, there will be plenty of haters. Ignore 'em.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides isn't a brilliant film. It isn't trying to be a brilliant film. It's trying to be a fun film, a silly film, a bit of a swashbuckling film and an opportunity to get good ole' Johnny Depp all made up again as Captain Jack.

Mission accomplished.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides isn't a film that needed to happen, and it's neither likely to be the highlight of your cinematic summer nor a celluloid burden upon your soul. The film will, I dare say without a doubt, please those of you who've been fond of the three films that preceded this one and will likely be regarded as the second best, after the original, even if good ole' Captain Jack isn't quite as fresh, entertaining and charming on this fourth go around.

While lead Johnny Depp has confessed publicly to being a bit tired of the character (It's amazing what a rumored $50 million payday will do for inspiration), to his massive credit he refuses to pull a Michael Caine or Nic Cage and turn in a paycheck performance. At his worst, Depp is better than a good 90% of the actors in Hollywood. Depp is certainly not at his best here, but he's fashioned himself a brilliant career out of these types of quirky characters and here he embodies Captain Jack with a swaggering bravado that is half flippant, half daredevil and half Rolling Stone.

Wait a minute. That's three halves.

Speaking of Rolling Stones, Keith Richards is back in what amounts to an extended repeat cameo as Captain Jack's father, a performance most noteworthy because for the first time in years Richards manages to enunciate rather clearly. Unlike past films, this time around there's no Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley around.

They aren't missed.

The story is simple. Captain Jack finds himself in pursuit of widely sought Fountain of Youth, a gig somewhat hindered by his running into an old flame, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who has aligned herself with her "father," the infamous pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Meanwhile, old foe Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) has aligned himself with the British crown and is after the same reward courtesy of funding from King George II (Richard Griffiths).

On Stranger Tides works best before it sets sail and essentially becomes Indiana Jones on the High Seas, essentially a light-hearted, popcorn movie-style action flick with a winning central figure surrounded by a host of interesting and delightful supporting characters. While the 3-D version of the film is completely and utterly unnecessary (Surely Rob Marshall has been around the cinema to realize that dark films don't look good in 3-D), the mostly computer-generated action sequences are entertaining enough and the vast majority of the cast is in on this film's ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to cinema.

How often do you get pirates, zombies and mermaids in the same flick?

Not often.

Gore Verbinski, who directed the first three Pirates films, has stepped aside and Oscar-nominated director Rob Marshall steps in to helm the film. The switch seems to have energized the proceedings, and his history in choreography works well in a variety of scenes involving computer-generated sword-fighting and pirates dangling from a variety of places along the ship's lines. While could reasonably argue that Marshall doesn't quite nail the pacing, he still deserves kudos for breathing life into a film that could have easily been the pirate equivalent of a Jaws 4.

Marshall's efforts to energize the series are aided by the presence of Penelope Cruz, whom we first meet while she's impersonating Captain Jack and attempting to recruit a crew. We quickly learn she's a past love interest, or at least as much of a love interest as is possible for the not quite faithful Jack, and that she's not quite gotten over her jilting. Cruz, while nowhere near as offbeat and quirky as Depp, nonetheless is able to match Depp's onscreen presence and intensity. This adds up to a rather delightful pairing between the two, often going toe-to-toe both with and against each other.

Ian McShane is spot on perfect as Blackbeard, not necessarily surprising given McShane's gift for playing the baddies. Kevin McNally back and solid as Gibbs, while newbies Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisby offer the film a welcome core of humanity as a cleric and a mermaid, respectively.

It's difficult to understand the thought pattern that went into deciding to turn On Stranger Tides into a 3-D picture, other than possibly needing to make a few extra bucks to cover Depp's salary. I can't recall a single scene that really called out for the 3-D effects, and so much of the film occurs at night that the 3-D is very nearly irrelevant. That said, On Stranger Tides is certainly not The Last Airbender, a film that utilized 3-D incredibly poorly and had the audacity to shoot quite a few cloudy and dark scenes. On Stranger Tides is, for the most part, quite clear. You simply don't need to pay the extra $3 or so to enjoy it.

While only a lunatic would have likely turned down the kind of payday that Depp enjoyed for this film, it's pretty clear that this character and his stories have run their course and it's time for Depp be as committed to his artistic integrity as he is to his talent. This final time is, indeed, an entertaining and enjoyable way to say goodbye to Captain Sparrow, the time has come for Depp and all of us to say truly say goodbye and allow him to swagger away on his own terms.

So, ignore the haters. If you've enjoyed the others in the series, then you're for sure going to enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. That said, the tide has arrived and here's hoping Depp and Disney allow Captain Jack to set sail for the last time.


© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
    The Official Rating Guideline
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