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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

AFTER the relative disappointments of the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the idea of reviving Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow for a fourth adventure was always going to be a tricky proposition.

But while the changes have been rung, and several franchise regulars have long since walked the plank, this reboot is only partially successful.

On the plus side, the decision to focus more of the movie’s attention on Captain Jack pays off, as does a slightly less convoluted plot and the addition of some fun new characters.

But just as many questioned the need for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in belated Pirates movies, so others will question the need for Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey in this one, while the 3D element also feels unnecessary as does a running time well in excess of two hours.

That said, let’s focus on the positives for now. Depp is on typically roguish and charismatic form as Captain Jack, admittedly content to riff on the same formula but still clearly enjoying the opportunity to do so, while Geoffrey Rush continues to be good fun as [now peg-legged] Barbossa.

Of the newcomers, Ian McShane is a suitably larger-than-life Blackbeard (although not as menacing as perhaps he should be), Penelope Cruz combines sass with sex appeal as a former love interest of Jack’s, and Stephen Graham is on fine form as new pirate Scrum (and clearly relishing the opportunity to play something other than a psycho).

Incoming director Rob Marshall maintains the same sense of spectacle as the first three movies, transporting viewers from Greenwich, London, to some spectacular Hawaii locations, while at the same time maintaining the franchise’s irreverent and sometimes subversive sense of humour.

The set pieces, too, are directed with gusto and include two highlights: an early escape from Greenwich by Captain Jack and a spectacular night-time attack by seductive mermaids.

There are also blink and you may miss them appearances from Keith Richards, Richard Griffiths and Dame Judi Dench that add a fun element.

The negatives, however, come in the form of the extravagant running time, several needless plot points and the fact that the early magic and sense of uncertainty has long since gone.

The plot, too, remains a little too convoluted for its own good, focusing on a quest to retrieve the magical Fountain of Youth and a race to get there between the barely seen Spanish Armada, Blackbeard, Sparrow and Barbossa.

There are the usual lies and double crosses, with no one apparently who they seem… some of which works and some of which feels superfluous and designed to bog down the running time.

And as good as the mermaids are, the decision to provide a romantic sub-plot for one, involving Berges-Frisbey’s sea-going creature and Claflin’s preacher, just feels like padding that doesn’t really go anywhere.

The aforementioned Spanish element, too, feels unnecessary, particularly as their late comeback after early references comes at a time when the film feels like its reached a natural conclusion.

Indeed, there is a very real sense at several points that this latest adventure is trying too hard and therefore lacks the out-and-out fun that made the fifth film in the Fast & Furious franchise such a pure guilty pleasure.

A post-credits attempt to set up its own fifth adventure also feels like chancing its arm somewhat… although, to be fair, On Stranger Tides has done enough to warrant a shot given that, in the main, this is a satisfying enough return that certainly remains closer in spirit to that glorious original.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 138mins
UK Release Date: May 18, 2011