[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B0058H9LZU][/pullquote] When it was first released in 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl became an unexpected blockbuster success. It launched the careers of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley and reintroduced Johnny Depp into the mainstream as the dashing Captain Jack Sparrow. Since then there have been two highly profitable sequels the second of which, Dead Man’s Chest grossed over $1 billion at the box office making it the 4th highest grossing film of all time. Sadly for fans of the first film, never has the law of diminishing returns ever been more evident as each instalment become more bloated with characters and ludicrous situations, this trend is continued in On Stranger Tides. The true genius of the first film was it’s ability to simultaneously be an action-adventure and a traditional ghost story. However as the zombies, creatures and mythical beasts appeared more and more, so the fantastical feel was lost becoming common place and even mundane.
So four years after the third film was released comes Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, based on the book that inspired the classic Monkey Island video games. We are treated to a new cast of characters along with the return of some familiar faces. The film begins with an exciting escape from the court of King James (Richard Griffiths) and the revelation of the existence of the Fountain of Youth that promises the person who drinks from it immortality. It plays out like Wacky Races with teams of wacky pirates and privateers all racing each other to be the first to get there. Sadly this is where the fun of On Stranger Tides stops and the over-the-top exposition begins. We are treated to long conversations that desperately try to explain the various goals that need to be completed in order to reach the fountain. Unfortunately most of them seem to be placed as a way is introducing meaningless characters and side-stories that just add to the disappointment.
Angelica (Penelope Cruz) is the new love interest for Captain Jack and Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is the token enemy from pirating lore. Both actors and their characters are completely wasted, showing some signs of interest and depth before being quickly side-lined so that we can watch Johnny Depp do his best impression of Captain Jack Sparrow. Since the first film, Depp’s character has become a caricature of his former self, adding more and more unnecessary camp without retaining the roguish charm that was pivotal to his popularity, this continues unabated in On Stranger Tides.
Whilst the running time of On Stranger Tides is almost a full hour shorter than it’s two most recent predecessors it still feels long and drawn out and new Director Rob Marshall (Chicago and Nine) does nothing to help the movie move at any kind of pace. What the series has always done well is create a convincing world in which to set the action and this has thankfully not changed as London, Cadiz and the mysterious island are all gloriously created and provide a visual feast for the audience. This is especially noticeable during the endless action scenes, where it is more satisfying to look at the surroundings rather than the events unfolding in front of you. In fact the only moments of respite from the tedium come in the interaction between Jack Sparrow and franchise regular Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), although these are fleeting and are quickly forgotten as each character double-crosses one another for a variety of silly reasons until you are left with a huge cast and nobody to cheer for.