Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

by Elsa Stoff

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The eagerly anticipated fourth installment of the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean series, On Stranger Tides, was released May 20th.  Many pirate fans and swashbucklers eagerly filled the theaters to see the elusive Johnny Depp recur his role as the smarmy Captain Jack Sparrow, sans his old cohorts, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Kiera Knightly).

The verdict: I thought it was overdone, expensive, and tacky, yet fun to watch once.

The movie focuses on Jack’s search for the Fountain of Youth, or more accurately, Blackbeard (Ian McSheane), Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), the Spanish Empire, and the British Empire’s search for the Fountain of Youth.  Jack’s just there.  Anyway, the movie opens with an over-the-top fighting sequence riddled with corny jokes, which almost makes you yearn for the scene on the wheel in the second movie, Dead Man’s Chest.

Angelica, Jack, and Black Beard

This scene also begs the question, “What happened to the British Empire?”  We left off the legion of pirates in At World’s End with the British recognized as a brutal, other-worldly force which has it out to kill all pirates and civilians who associate with buccaneers. They controlled the whole ocean, and the East India Trading company ruled the economy.   This recent installment reduced this fearsome people to an obese big wig monarch and a few guards who tripped over their own feet while Jack fled London.

Next, we encounter a girl from Jack’s past, Angelina (Penelope Cruz).  Apparently, she was a Spanish nun, when Jack came along and seduced her, and oh yeah, she’s Blackbeard’s daughter.  Yet do I or any other movie watcher care about this?  No.  She’s uninteresting, and just there to fulfill the big actress spot for the token action movie hot girl.  She knocks Jack out and gets him to her father’s ship, the Queen Ann’s Revenge, so Blackbeard leaves on his quest to find the Fountain of Youth, and Barbosa simultaneously embarks to find and kill Blackbeard.

Throughout the rest of the movie we get the adventure involved in finding the fountain.  The plot is very basic and predictable, yet it provides a safe story line which will undoubtedly make money.  This, in turn, was obviously everyone involved in this movie’s only goal.  Not to mention, there is simultaneously a ridiculous subplot involving the romance between a missionary (Sam Claflin) and a mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey).  They have no relevance to the overall plot whatsoever; they’re just there to add some no-name good looking actors and actresses and melodrama.

The laughter-inspiring duo

The epitome of ridiculous movie scenes all lend to the missionary’s lines, the best being, when one of the pirates calls the mermaid “the creature” and he screams, “She has a name!” He subsequently stares at her and says in a whispered tone, “It’s Syrena.”  I almost cracked up at the delivery of this line.  Though, it’s hard to encapsulate in writing.  The whole movie’s worth seeing to make fun of that line.  Another unintentionally classic moment with the missionary is scene where blood is gushing out of his stomach, and he just runs up the hill back to the mermaid.  He might as well had said, “No big deal guys!  It’s just a flesh wound.  I’ve gotta go save my flesh-eating fish whom I’m in love with.”

Though, after all the flack I’ve given this movie, it was truly enjoyable, as long as I didn’t think too hard about how much it was all costing for mediocre results.  The main plot surrounding Barbosa and Blackbeard can be interesting, and the cheesy intentional humor is actually funny when your first watch it.  However, those jokes only hold their merit once.  They’re inescapable throughout the whole movie, and many of them are similar to the telescope joke in the third movie.  When I re-watched At World’s End I didn’t feel compelled to laugh when Jack pulled out his gigantic telescope.  Since many of the jokes in the fourth movie are similar, I have a feeling that they would completely ruin their merit upon the second time any of the jokes are seen.

Basically, On Stranger Tides is an enjoyable summer movie and worth watching once, and only once.

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