Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp and Ian McShane in 'POTC: On Stranger Tides'

Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

Directed by Rob Marshall

Starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Ian McShane

A soulless cash grab if there ever was one. I suppose it was inevitable that there would be an attempt at a second trilogy of POTC films and it was inevitable that they would focus on Captain Jack Sparrow, seeing as how he was the franchise’s most indelible character. However, when you go to the lengths the original sequels did, in which the climax of all climaxes is literally at the end of the world, where is there to go but down? That’s precisely where On Stranger Tides goes.

The first problem is with director Rob Marshall, who doesn’t have the eye for action and adventure. His cinematography is shockingly flat compared to the flare displayed by Gore Verbinski and his team. I suppose it’s adequate for a summer blockbuster, but it simply lacks the energy or crispness of Verbinski’s efforts. Adding insult to injury are the cartoonish and sluggish performances from the actors, which may or may not be attributable to Marshall’s direction. Chicago might have been an awards darling way back when, but if you re-watched it, you’d see some performances that were self-conscious and theatrical, even for a musical- and from good actors!

There’s a self-referential vibe going on with Stranger Tides in which many of the actors seem know they’re in a movie to sell a product and not to act so they either go way over the top to the point of being horrible- Penelope Cruz, I’m looking at you, with your mangling of English pronunciation and the screen presence of a third-string community theater actress. Or they phone it in with nary a hint of their original effusiveness- I am of course, referring to Captain Jack himself, Johnny Depp.

In this outing Depp’s Sparrow doesn’t seem drunk so much as sleepy, like he’d rather be somewhere else. The only time he regains his old spark is in his brief scene with Keith Richards as his father. Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa and Ian McShane as Blackbeard seem like they’re the only ones having fun, playing their characters with the right amount of gusto without ever going cartoonish. These guys might be old and unsightly, but I would have rather seen films based around them.

Sam Clafin replaces Orlando Bloom as the requisite young hot male, a priest with six-pack abs, and Astrid Berges-Frisby replaces Keira Knightley as a mermaid. People make fun of Orlando Bloom’s pretty boy image, but the guy had presence. He felt different, he has a flare for comedy and timing and really made an impression. Clafin just looks like a model they pulled out of a catalogue to fill a void. They offer nothing of note to the story and are simply there to be eye candy.

The pace is plodding and clunky, with lots of time devoted to people sitting around on ships waiting to get somewhere. Not exactly adventure movie heaven. The plot is superfluous and overwrought. Something about a mermaid’s tear activating the fountain of youth. It’s a MacGuffin of a plot.

All in all, On Stranger Tides is precisely what we feared most in an unnecessary sequel. Soulless, uninspired retreads of a formerly successful formula that hits all the requisite notes, but can’t seem to give us a real reason to care. A paycheck film for all involved. What a shameful end to a wonderful franchise.

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