Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by:Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Sam Claflin
Released: May 19, 2011
Grade: C+

There are giant billboards around Brisbane at the moment advertising this latest chapter in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise.  They show Captain Jack Sparrow with his arms outstretched and in the lower right corner are the words “May 19”.  If you look closely, you’ll notice something missing from the billboard however – the title!

You have to admire the audacity of those behind the film’s marketing campaign.  This series is so powerful that you don’t even need to tell people the name of the movie.  Just the simple image of Johnny Depp dressed in a pirate’s costume will be enough to lure people to cinemas this weekend.  They’ll hand over their cash and ask for a ticket to “the Pirates movie”.

On that basis, my review is somewhat pointless.  There’s nothing I could say that will prevent anyone from seeing it.  If you made it through the last three Pirates flicks (at a combined length of 7 hours, 43 minutes), I’m confident you’ll want to reacquaint yourself with the Captain Jack Sparrow and his odd mannerisms.

Things are a little different this time around however.  Gore Verbinski has stepped aside (to work on some other projects) and Academy Award nominee Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs Of A Geisha) has taken the helm as director.  There have been many changes amongst the cast too.  Noticeably absent are the English contingent - Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy and Jonathan Pryce.

You’re wallet might also notice a change.  As Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (the full title for what it’s worth) is the first in the series to be shot in 3D, be prepared to hand over a few extra dollars for this adventure.

If there’s one thing that you’ll take away from this review – let it be my strong recommendation that you see the 2D version instead.  Much of the film is set at night and so it’s not the kind of movie you want to be watching through tinted glasses.  With very little added from the special effects themselves, the decision to shoot 3D seems to be purely a financial one (i.e. adding to Disney’s coffers and helping pay Johnny Depp’s $35m salary).

My thoughts about this film are negative and that’s largely because of the convoluted plot.  It’s not fun at all.  The open half-hour is a complete snooze-fest – a drawn out chase sequence that gets tired very quickly.  An underwhelming cameo from an accomplished English actress only adds to the disappointment.

The introduction of Blackbeard (McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Cruz) give the film a small spark but again, they’re hampered by the muddled story.  The characters extricate themselves far too easily from difficult situations and there’s no sense of excitement.  You’re just going through the motions, watching a mishmash of subplots involving mermaids, Spaniards and stolen ships.  The finale is predictable to the point of being laughable.

All of that said, I had to chuckle during the last scene of the film as Jack Sparrow described his next adventure.  It was basically a confession – that the past two hours had been complete nonsense and that any future instalments would be just as ludicrous.  Perhaps the joke had been on us.

You can read/listen to my interview with star Geoffrey Rush by clicking here.