Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


Not a total shipwreck, but almost.
Before you go to the theater, you should know that this installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is without a doubt, the weakest film in the series. You know the saying, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it?” Well, whatever drama developed between Disney producers and director of all three previous Pirates films Gore Verbinski actually should have been fixed because Rob Marshall very nearly sank the ship (!!) with this one. The actors and a few of the effects were just barely enough to sufficiently patch through the film’s overall lacking and mediocrity.
The story, while credited to the original writers of the rest of the films (Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio) is decidedly unimpressive. Captain Jack Sparrow, still without a ship of his own, must accompany Edward Teach (otherwise known as Blackbeard) and his daughter, Angelica to the fountain of youth. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), from the previous films, is headed there, also. There are reasons we’re supposed to care about this road trip, I suppose, Jack and Angelica had a thing years back, Blackbeard, despite being the most feared pirate on the seas, has just received a death prophecy---if he doesn’t reach the fountain, Barbossa will kill him--- and as a concept, the fountain of youth seems interesting enough, but really, the story is tired and takes ages to actually pick up. The dialogues were mostly flat and Penelope Cruz (as Angelica) while beautiful, was no substitute for Will Turner or even Elizabeth Swann; this story really suffered from a lack of any interesting civilians!
Regarding Blackbeard’s ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge is actually one of the best things about the film; the physical look of it, the zombies that crewed it, and its special “abilities” (both under Blackbeard’s reign and the man who later captains it) were fun. Blackbeard as a villain didn’t feel quite scary enough though, especially not after considering Davey Jones, The Kraken, or Barbossa’s teeth from the previous films. You really can’t help thinking, If he’s such a terrifying pirate, why is he running? For my money, Ian McShane (Blackbeard) was a whole lot more menacing as Al Swearengen in Deadwood.


The filmmaking choices were not great, either. Many of the scenes went on way too long and despite being the shortestPirates film yet, it honestly felt like the longest. It seemed like the majority of the film’s first half was composed of extreme close ups, which served as speed bumps to already-choppy sequences; the only one that made any sort of sense, continutity-wise was a close shot of Jack’s loaded grimace when he is told he’s aboard The Queen Anne’s Revenge.
The fountain itself is exciting, and a well-done setting, but by the time they actually reach it, feels like a giant letdown since we see it intact for only moments. The film wraps up by doing something one of my professors called “ending six times,” yet still leaving the door wide open for the next installment. (Which let’s pray is given back to Verbinski.)

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