Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Okay, but disappointing.
When I was watching the original trilogy for Pirates of the Caribbean, I was at least slightly surprised to find I wasn’t a huge fan of the third film, At World’s End. It was overly complicated with way too many groups fighting each other, too long, and ultimately just…confusing. However, it still felt like Pirates of the Caribbean at its core. So I was wondering how well it compared to the latest flick, On Stranger Tides. I remember really despising this film in the name of the Pirates films, but it did have a very easy-to-understand plot. Lots of positives and negatives to go around, but which one comes out victorious? The last film. On Stranger Tides just doesn’t measure up to any of the original three for a number of reasons.
This film, as hinted at from the end of the last, is all about the Fountain of Youth, and everyone wants it. Jack Sparrow more or less gave up the search for whatever reason, but that doesn’t stop the rest of the world from wanting its location. These groups are – Blackbeard’s team, Barbosa’s team, and…the Spanish. Jack is on Blackbeard’s team without consent, Barbosa has joined the British army for some reason, and the Spanish are just…random. So come right along as we find the legendary Fountain of Youth.
First, I want to talk plot. Throughout the film, the plot is the clearest element out of everything. It’s easy to understand and everyone wants it. It may be a little Indiana Jones-y, but at least it is solid and you understand everything the entire time. The faults of this film lay elsewhere – primarily characters. Jack Sparrow is a funny guy, and yes, Depp bounces back into character a fourth time, but the problem is that all importance immediately lands in his lap. The previous three films had his importance right up there with Will and Elizabeth, and all of them had goals that were integral to the overall story. They played their roles incredibly well opposite each other and created a fresh “Pirates” tone that they all had – save for this.
Our new characters taking the place of Will and Elizabeth are two characters I’ve already forgotten the names of personally. Philip and Angelica (via IMDb). Philip is some religious fella that really cares about…well, I guess doing the right thing and snogging the little mermaid. Angelica is probably more important, and makes more sense as the “Will” role for this film, but they tried to force her interesting attributes (fake Jack), but beyond that, I didn’t find her overall very memorable or important. Heck, I didn’t think she and Jack really had the best on-screen chemistry. It is this three-way of chemistry in the original films that really makes the original films work. Without them, the film begins to turn into – not a Pirates of the Caribbean film, but a Captain Jack Sparrow film, which on its own is okay, just not the best for everything you ever knew about the series.
As for the writing, this is tricky. Overall, the plot as I’ve said is very solid, but I don’t think it matches the other films either. I just didn’t get the whole Barbosa working with the British, I wasn’t fond of Jack enslaved on Blackbeard’s ship, and the Black Pearl is a character all on its own…which wasn’t in this film other than in a bottle…no. It’s not only that, but I’m a bit lost on who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. Everyone seems to be rotten to the core. Sure, in a way Jack Sparrow is a big softy, but he’s kind of careless and not the best role model either. The rest of the cast were pretty evil. So as far as protagonist and antagonists go, this film is a bit unfocused.
Overall, the only thing that makes Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides a true Pirates film is the title and Johnny Depp’s portrayal as Jack. The plot wasn’t bad, it’s just the loose writing that doesn’t even come close to matching the epicness of the first three. It feels completely detached and not in the best way, either. It’s okay to check out once just because it’s part of the series, but no need to waste your money on it.