Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Zombie crewman, infamous scoundrels, and everyone's favorite rum-soaked pirate have returned in an adventure that proves entertaining but is not nearly as magnificent as it could have been.

When Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) sets foot in fair London-town for the first time, he is astounded and more a little displeased to discover he is being impersonated. Whilst attempting to find the scurvy cur who would dare disparage his good name, he runs afoul of Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who has become a "privateer" for the Royal Navy. His Majesty (and the Spanish too) are in search of the famed Fountain of Youth and have heard that Jack has a map to its location. Or had, having had it recently pilfered. Jack manages to escape the royal guards only to run into an old friend, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who shanghais him on board Blackbeard's ship. Jack's intended mutiny goes bad but does introduce him to the infamous pirate (Ian McShane), who insists on Jack leading them to said source of liquid eternal life.

In order to make good use of the Fountain first a single mermaid's tear must be obtained... and the underwater folk are not very accommodating. Throw in a missionary (Sam Claflin) who finds it hard to believe Blackbeard has a soul worth saving, a zombie crew on board the Queen's Revenge, and the mysterious fate of the Black Pearl and the adventure has only just begun.

The first Pirates is one of my all-time favorite movies: it was original and exciting, cleverly written, beautifully directed, and had more twists and turns than one of Jack's long-winded explanations. It began a love affair between audiences everywhere and the memorable characters, the most notable of which being Jack Sparrow. This fourth installment in the franchise has plenty of Jack and some nice character consistencies with previous installments (it is particularly amusing to note that Barbossa has not lost his taste for green apples) but for some reason it did not hit all the right notes with me. I expected more humor than there was; while there are a few laughs and an occasionally brilliant line, it is nothing like the sheer hilarity of previous installments, which at times had me laughing so hard that much like Miss Swann in her corset, I couldn't breathe. There is also a little bit of doubt concerning the character of Jack Sparrow -- in all previous movies he was mostly out to look after only his own interests, and innocent bystanders can hang, but here he seems a little too concerned with other people to be believable.
 
However, there are some notable things about the script -- it is a bit awkward at the start but the pace settles in when we reach the high seas and by the end it had proven a rollicking adventure. There are a lot of fun and unnerving moments but by far the best scene involves the mermaids -- everything about them is mysterious, haunting, and sinister. History is muddied significantly. It's not a very kind depiction of the English but paints the Spaniards in an equally harsh light. I was pleasantly surprised by the depiction of faith through Philip, the missionary. Throughout, he is noble and kind, speaks reverently of faith, and is the only man to show compassion to a captured mermaid. Even before benefitting from his kindness, she senses that he is "different" from the others, a much better man. Some might be offended by him falling in love with a mermaid (he claims God must have created her) but I loved their subplot.

Supernatural events are, as usual, present, both in the form of mermaids and Blackbeard's familiarity with voodoo. His officers are comprised of zombies (this is never expounded on) and it is said that he reanimated himself from the dead. He makes a little doll of Jack and tortures it for fun, with Jack suffering literal repercussions. The Fountain is presented as a means of eternal life (religious individuals denounce it as "pagan"); it removes the life from one and gives it to another. Whether or not you will enjoy this film is hard to predict; it depends on your expectations. I went in expecting more than I received, so I was a tad disappointed. It is not going to appeal to everyone and may even offend on some levels depending on your stance on feminism, but I enjoyed it overall.
 

  
Sexual Content:
Many sexual innuendos; topless mermaids (their hair covers anything too inappropriate); we see bare backs and sides.
  
Language:
Frequent but mild, consisting mostly of minor swear words and "b**stard."
  
Violence:
Swordfights, men being shot, attempted hangings, burned alive, etc. Mermaids drag men into the sea; conversation references them eating sailors.