Sunday, June 12, 2011

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” – Where the only real pirates are the writers.

Did you know if you turn the title into an acronym, it’s POT COST? I’m not really sure what that means, but those are the kinds of things you think about during movies that are simply average. I’m not saying this latest installment of Disney’s cash cow is a bad movie, in fact it’s actually quite entertaining, it just doesn’t offer anything different than or special from what we’ve already seen in the series.

If you haven’t been counting, this is the fourth movie in a franchise that is based solely on a theme park ride. This time around, the writers didn’t bother to even attempt to write an original story. Instead, Disney bought the rights to a novel by Tim Powers called, surprise, On Stranger Tides. While they were able to adapt the story to include Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), they left out the rest of the cast from the previous films. I don’t mind the other actors from those films, but their characters were not terribly interesting. I wish they had left Barbossa out as well, but I guess they thought they could beat a little more mileage out of him.

The movie begins some unknown amount of time after the third film. Jack has no ship, Barbossa works for the English navy, and everyone is looking for the Fountain of Youth. Seriously, everyone. Jack, Barbossa, the English, the Spanish, Penelope Cruz (Angelica), and Blackbeard (Ian McShane). In order to find the fountain, one must catch a mermaid, mix her tears with the fountain’s water in special goblets, convince someone else to drink water with no tears, and when they drink the tear-water, they steal the remaining years of life from the non-tear water drinker. Got all that? Here’s where it gets confusing. Barbossa wants to kill Blackbeard for embarrassing him on the ocean, costing him a leg, and stealing the Black Pearl. Blackbeard wants to find the fountain because his zombie crew member prophesizes that Blackbeard will be killed by a one-legged man, which (shockingly) refers to Barbossa. Angelica is Blackbeard’s daughter and former lover of Jack who wants to help save Blackbeard’s life. The English want to find the fountain for the obvious reason, the Spanish want to find it for a completely ridiculous reason, and Jack wants to find it for no reason that is ever shared with us. In case you aren’t completely overwhelmed, they toss in killer mermaids, zombie crewmen, a magical sword, a member of the clergy, Keith Richards, and Judi Dench. The word you are looking for is aaaaarrrrrgh.

The problem with throwing that much crap into a single film is that there isn’t enough time to develop some of it, let alone all of it. By the end, we’re left with half-told stories, unexplained zombies and that sword I mentioned earlier that is magic sometimes. Instead of developing those things, among others, time is wasted on the English and King George II, who we stopped caring about three movies ago. Even worse, they try to shove a religious statement down our throats which has no business being in a movie about supernatural pirates. The Spanish want to find the fountain simply so they can destroy it because, in their words, “Only God has the power to grant eternal life.” I hate this kind of shit in movies because it is completely illogical. If God created the world, then He created the fountain, therefore is granting its gift to those who find it. Compounding this idiocy is the clergyman, whom we meet while tied to the mast of Blackbeard’s ship. We don’t know why he’s there, but after Jack cuts him down, he spends the rest of the movie spouting epithets about Blackbeard going to hell and being a bad person. He’s a fucking pirate! I’m guessing he’s not terribly concerned with that and the only surprise is that Blackbeard doesn’t shoot the jackass in the face. Removing these things would have left us a better film, though that’s assuming the writers were capable of such things as thinking.

Despite that stuff, the film manages to overcome them and entertain at the same level as the previous films (I know some people didn’t like them, but they weren’t bad movies). Depp and Rush turn in good, if not typical, performances, while the rest of cast serves its purpose of “being there and not sucking.” The special effects meet the standards set in the previous films, including an over-the-top chase scene through London, an exploding lighthouse, and some very real and very hot mermaids (careful, they bite). It moves along at very fast pace and doesn’t feel long despite its two hour and seventeen minute running time. And just in case you can never get enough Cap’n Jack, there will definitely be a fifth movie, as there is another teaser scene after the credits. My guess is it will involve more thievery, resulting in a possible subtitle of Pirate Latitudes (sorry Michael Crichton).

Rating: Ask for three dollars back - or a copy of the book.

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