Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are some of my favorites of all time, along with Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and some others. So I have been greatly anticipating the release of On Stranger Tides; ever since I heard it was being filmed. I enjoy all of the characters for different reasons, and I was interested to see how they would move forward without the Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan dynamic working.

While I liked the movie, I can’t say I loved it, and it is clearly at the bottom of the four in my opinion. Here are some of my observations…

There was no chemistry. I wanted to like Penelope Cruz and her character because I was never really happy with Keira Knightley and her’s. But I have to say, after watching Cruz’s lackluster performance, it made me long for a return of Elizabeth Swan. There was no chemistry between Cruz and Depp, and her character was incredibly boring. So much so that I was thrilled to see Capt’n Jack leave her on that deserted island.

Barbossa is one of my favorite characters, but he was totally neutered in this film. He was no longer the pirate adversary to Capt’n Jack, he was one of the King’s minions, or at least had to pretend to be. In fact, there were no pirates in this film at all other than Blackbeard, who became one of my favorite characters. He was cast well and played a good part. In fact, I would go so far as to say he stole the show other than the occasional flashes from Depp.

Depp is at his best when he is playing off the other characters and orchestrating behind the scenes. In this film, he is expected to take the lead and and carry it himself, and it fails to deliver the same punch. The characters are not well developed, especially Cruz, and they all seem flat, waiting for Depp to lead them in each scene. Only at the end did we see Barbossa the pirate come out as he took control of Blackbeard’s ship.

The story itself was ill conceived and shallow. The whole mermaid and missionary dynamic seemed misplaced and forced. It was never explored or developed, and it never tied in well to the overall storyline. In retrospect, I can say I never felt any attachment to any of the characters… no feelings at all. Each time the missionary was left for dead I thought good riddance, but he kept coming back. I felt no angst for him and the mermaid, and in fact I viewed their scenes as an intrusion on the story.

There was too much land and not enough sea. Most of this story takes place in London or in Florida… on land. The sea scenes were few, and I missed the action on the open waters between pirate vessels, etc. Wandering through the jungles was boring and was not rescued by any compelling dialogue from anyone. There was no tension… no hero to root for or villain to disdain. There were no subplots or intrigue to discover. Everything was out on the table, with no hidden agendas or stories to uncover. Even the whole Blackbeard’s daughter thing was handled poorly. There was no build up or drama… no climax to ascend.

It sounds like I hated the movie, I know. But I didn’t. It was pretty good, and I enjoyed it. It just wasn’t in the league with the other 3 in my opinion. They are classics, where this one was average. It came across as a low budget attempt to make a lot of money on the hype. I don’t know where they will take this franchise, but I hope they will rediscover the magic of the first movies. They should start by bringing the Pearl back. A Pirates movie without the Pearl is doomed from the start.