Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) Dir. Rob Marshall

This time Jack Sparrow takes us on a quest for the Fountain of Youth. The issue of eternal youth and the mystical Fountain promises a really engaging story. However, the creators fail to make at least slightly interesting movie.

First, the quest. The entire story boils down to heading for the Fountain, occasionally interrupted by sailing and sword fighting. The subtitle “On Stranger Tides” implicates the story’s gonna take place on a ship. Yet, the creators decided to trick us, and even more bore us, with longish sequences everywhere but not on the water. It’s all there: streets, inns, forests, caves, but where the stranger tides are is a mystery. What’s more, there are three fractions desiring to find the Fountain: the Spanish, the English, and the pirates. For most of the time, we forget about the Spanish and the English since we follow virtually only Jack Sparrow’s “merry” troop. As you might expect, it doesn’t change until the very end when they all meet. Anyways, the road to the Fountain is tedious, and to be honest, most of the things that happened along the way simply slipped my mind. So much for action-packed adventure. After too many not very exhilarating complications, I no longer cared for the characters’ fate, especially that we expect they all get to the Fountain in the end.

As for the characters, this is a pirate version of the Clone Wars. Jack Sparrow is duplicated so many times I thought I was seeing double, and triple, and more. To make matters worse, the creators make a big deal introducing every subsequent character (shots from behind, concealing a character’s identity for a few seconds, and then a close-up on the face), but each of them resembles Sparrow in every painful detail. The Sparrow’s appearance – the emo makeup, the colorful, over-sized outfit, exotic jewelry, and the huge pirate hat – works only for Sparrow. Once it’s copied so many times, it stops being unique. Starting from Captain Teague (Keith Richards) to Angelica (Penélope Cruz) to Blackbeard (Ian McShane) to Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) even, we get an impression the creators exhausted all the good ideas for diverse characters.

Jack Sparrow himself doesn’t show anything we haven’t seen before. His behavior, maneuvers, expressions, remarks, and attitude stay the same since the movie number 1. He doesn’t develop in any way. Of course, Johnny Depp portrays him perfectly, but there’s nothing different from the previous movies. It seems this movie serves only one purpose: to give more Jack Sparrow to the hungry fans. On top of that, we get Penélope Cruz, who’s neither charming nor interesting as Angelica. She’s supposed to be Jack’s female counterpart, and a reminder of his consciousness, but she’s nowhere near Keira Knightely’s Elizabeth Swann, who attracted our attention with more power and emotion. As for outstanding Ian McShane, sadly he doesn’t stand out as the designated villain. Unfortunately, he becomes a background for Sparrow just like the rest of the pirates. Geoffrey Rush is as charming as in any other Pirates installment, but he’s too scarce to devote more than a few words to him. There’s one character that shines – Scrum. Excellent Stephen Graham creates a likable and more importantly memorable pirate, who wouldn’t be called the sharpest pencil in the drawer, but his swashbuckling attitude, lovely tone of voice, and amusing presence make the movie more attractive to watch.

What about the story? The search for the Fountain could bore anyone to death (even the water from the Fountain wouldn’t save you). There isn’t one scene when we could doubt they’ll get there. Once they do, the Fountain itself isn’t as impressive as Angelica describes it. Plus, the screenwriters make an extra effort to add longish dialogues and far from amusing fighting scenes to torment us some more at the end. On top of that, they add a moral message to the story. Angelica Teach is trying to teach both Jack and Blackbeard the power and value of goodness. She’s willing to sacrifice her life to save Blackbeard’s soul. However, we don’t feel her deep need to save anyone, or identify with her pain when she witnesses Blackbeard’s demise. The story never focuses on her enough to make her own story count. She’s Sparrow’s shadow. Although Sparrow doesn’t contribute anything new, he dominates the story. I should also mention the love plot between one missionary (Sam Claflin), who’s innocent beyond belief, and a nasty siren (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), whose vampire-like teeth doesn’t make her so nasty. Their love is quite simple: she falls for him cause he helps her, and he falls for her cause she’s beautiful (I can’t find any other reason for his love). Frankly, the dramatic part of their love seems forced, and serves only to push the action forward. By the way, the only hilarious joke is a pun Sparrow makes about the missionary.

The movie offers little entertainment. Jack and his multiple impersonators fight, run, and sail to the same familiar tune from the series (at some point, it blends into one song repeated over and over again throughout the entire movie). The dull story leads to a disappointing ending. After all, it’s not a movie, but a parade of Jack Sparrow(s) only for the amusement of die-hard fans. If you’re looking for a gripping story of love and eternal youth, watch Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain instead. Savvy?

Long days, pleasant nights,

Veronica Bazydlo

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