Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a 2011 fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Rob Marshall, starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, and Kevin McNally.  Serving as the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean series and and sequel to At World’s End, following Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who is joined by Angelica (Penelope Cruz) in his search for the Fountain of Youth, confronting the infamous pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane).


Positives:

  • Good humor
  • Good story
  • Great characters
  • Great visuals
  • Great performances
  • Great cast
  • Great use of practical and make-up effects

Negatives:

  • Forced humor
  • Uninteresting characters
  • Lackluster script

Plot:  The story follows Jack Sparrow who is forced to locate the Fountain of Youth for the legendary pirate Blackbeard, dealing with his former love interest Angelica, and his old rival Barbossa.  The story is good although there are moments where it feels is…uneventful.  The whole race for the chalices and the Fountain of Youth does bring an urgency between the various parties making the keeping the story at a good pace although the King George II and King Ferdinand’s reasons for wanting the treasure are pretty lame.  There is the subplot of Jack and Angelica’s love interest which is touched upon but doesn’t feel as impactful as it could’ve been.  There are moments where they seem like they love each other but comes off more as manipulation although Jack does seem to show it more.  The subplot concerning the love interest between Philip and Syrena is okay but comes off as a bit of a shoe in.  The story would’ve played out a lot better if the story focused less on Philip and Syrena and more on Jack and Angelica. (3 out of 5)

Characters:  The film features a great roster of characters including protagonist Jack Sparrow who is on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth.  On his quest he is joined by Captain Blackbeard and his daughter and Jack’s former lover Angelica.  Blackbeard is straight up menacing and definitely has presence.  Unfortunately his character is weak due to his lack of…how should I put this…him being interesting.  He is suppose to be this scary pirate but there is no instance in the movie where he feels like a badass.  Sure he has the sword that can control his ship and that’s cool but his voodoo/dark magic powers are completely under utilized.  I kept wanting to see him suck the souls out of someone or use his dark magic to control someone or something.  Sadly he does nothing but talk a good game.  Angelica is a much more interesting character.  She and Jack have history and it is their relationship that really pushes the movie.  And like Jack there are moments where it is hard to tell if she’s being genuine.  Barbossa was pretty cool but this film feels like it could’ve been better without him.   Sure him wanting revenge for the Black Pearl is a great motivation for the character he just feels unnecessary.  Gibbs is pretty cool and it is cool seeing how smart and resourceful he is.  Syrena is a pretty interesting character also who’s captured and forced upon the journey but Philip is probably the weakest character of the main cast. (3 out of 5)

Cast:  Great performances by the cast.  Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, and Geoffrey Rush.  Ian McShane was awesome as Blackbeard but is literally given nothing to do.  Depp and Cruz have a lot of great chemistry together onscreen and there is definitely this passion between the characters they play.  Other members of the cast include Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Stephen Graham, Greg Ellis, and Sebastian Armesto. (4 out of 5)

Visuals: The film does have a really good look to it.  The mermaids have this ethereal look to them (basically CGI enhanced) and to some extent it works and to others it feels like it wasn’t really necessary.  The zombie crew weren’t impressive in the least.  There are perhaps the laziest looking of any crew in any movie.  The design of the Fountain of Youth definitely could’ve been better.  There is nothing remarkable about the design whatsoever.  There are some really good wide shots that give the film a large scale look. The action does look good however, the fight between Barbossa and Blackbeard does feel a little lazy, especially compared to Barbossa’s battles in previous films.  (4 out of 5)

Score:  The score is pretty good.  Hans Zimmer definitely gives the film the edge it needs.  There are so many moments where he just touches on the little moments between the characters as well as having a grand feel for the more epic moments. (4 out of 5)

Writing:  There are some pitfalls when it comes to the script that definitely should’ve been ironed out better.  I will say that the dialogue is really good.  Got to give credit where credit is due.  Especially Blackbeard’s dialogue.  The character of Blackbeard is presented well but should’ve been written better.  Who is Blackbeard?  What is he capable of? What’s his motivation?  I mean, I know he sought out the Fountain of Youth so he wouldn’t die at the hands of Barbossa but before that.  Also, the stakes with London and the Spain and it would’ve been nice to see more about them; why do they pursue the treasure, how do they know about it, has it affected the relations between the two?  Also, there are a lot of characters that seem really unnecessary which hurts the effectiveness of the actual good ones.  Another thing is the hunt for the Fountain of Youth doesn’t feel as epic as it should.  Now, the ritual associated with the Fountain is pretty sweet but there is literally nothing dangerous or epic about the journey to it. The final point.  The humor.  Pirates of the Caribbean has had its share of humor but there are some moments where it does fall quite flat on its face but there are some that are highly effective.  (3 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a good movie but it does have it its share of its own problems.  There are some problems with the script such as humor and storytelling, more than a few characters who aren’t necessary, and humor that is forced.  But the film does feature great characters, great performances, great score, interesting story, fun moments, great visuals, and an awesome cast.  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets 4 out of 5.

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