Movie Review: Pirates of The Caribbean - On Stranger Tides

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount Friday, 20 May 2011

Movie Reviews


Some franchises just don’t know when to lay down and die. The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, starring Johnny Depp as semi-soused pirate cap’n Jack Sparrow and based on a Disney theme park ride, was a breath of fresh, salty sea air when it arrived on our screens back in 2003. Two bloated, convoluted sequels later and, despite big Box Office bucks, we’d all had just about enough of Sparrow’s increasingly irritating antics and would have been more than happy to see him walk the plank for good. But Hollywood’s never one to leave a cash cow unmilked for long so here he trundles again, in what’s threatened to be the first of a new Jack Sparrow trilogy, this time with director Rob Marshall at the tiller. Sadly  On Stranger Tides runs aground almost immediately and at the end of a long and often very dreary 135 minutes we’re left with a character who’s now little more than a caricature and a film which, by virtue of a clearly-reduced budget, is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

What’s most disappointing about On Stranger Tides is that, presented with the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh, freed from the clutter of the first three films and with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly out of the way, writers Ted Elliott  and  Terry Rossio  have found nothing new to bring to the Captain's table; they’ve just replaced like with like. So instead of drippy Orlando we get drippy Sam Claflin (he’s in love with a fish) and instead of Keira we get the ghastly, barely-coherent Penelope Cruz (big hair, big mouth, big deal). The story remains pretty much the same, too. After a rattling escape from London (one of a number of admittedly well-executed if perfunctory action set pieces) Jack meets up with his ex-squeeze Angelica (Cruz) who's been impersonating him in order to recruit a crew for her ship. Jack finds himself enlisted on a quest to find the legendary ‘Fountain of Youth’ in the company of his old sparring partner Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and, for added (rather obvious) menace, the grizzled Blackbeard (Ian McShane). In the course of their travels this motley crew appear to find themselves stranded in locations from Lost, indulge in the odd bit of swashbuckling and, in the film’s only really energised sequence, fight off hordes of vampiric mermaids. Elsewhere it’s pretty much business as usual with Depp mugging and flapping and wailing, and that joke’s just not very funny any more.

Not only is On Stranger Tides bereft of any new ideas it also looks a bit cash-strapped. Largely gone are the glorious Caribbean vistas and seascapes of the first trilogy, much of this takes place at night on board one ship with little or no attempt at creating a sense of cinematic scale despite the bluster and bombast and the final climactic battle scene just looks cluttered and clumsy. The film's main problem is that it seems to think that Captain Jack alone is enough to justify our time and our pennies and On Stranger Tides offers nothing for any of its other characters. Rush's Barbossa has been emasculated beyond belief, McShane's Blackbeard is back-of-a-fag-packet pantomime pirate who does little but make empty threats and the rest of the attendant scurvy pirate knaves are just there to make up the numbers and bulk up the crowd scenes.


On Stranger Tides signs off as the first blockbuster disappointment of the summer (and likely not the last). I'm su re there's more mileage to be had from the 'Pirates' saga but unless there's some new blood injected into the mix next time around, it's going to be less 'Yo Ho Ho' and more 'Yawn Yawn Yawn'. My sincere apologies...


Expected rating 6


Actual...


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Comments  

 
+1 #9 jim 2011-05-21 12:52
Ouch!
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+2 #8 Matthew Jones 2011-05-21 12:28
Metacritic has Pirates 1 at 63, Pirates 2 at 53 and Pirates 3 at 50. The new movies is only at 46 thus far.

Rotten tomatoes has Pirates 1 at 78%, Pirates 2 at 53%, Pirates 3 at 45% and Pirates 4 at 35%.

That is some serious diminishing returns!

If the beating that Pirates 2 and 3 got in the reviews really did result in the budget cut for Pirates 4, it looks like really rough seas ahead for the the franchise's future funding!
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0 #7 jim 2011-05-21 12:06
I wasn't aware the last two films got a massive drubbing, thanks for the info.
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0 #6 Matthew Jones 2011-05-21 12:00
Jim, I suspect it stems from a lack of faith in the franchise after the critical mauling the last two films were met with. They made a decent heap of money, but there was almost universal dismay at the quality of the films themselves, both in the press and the public. The reduced budget suggests that the studio wasn't sure if people would come back to see another Pirates movie after that.

Also, and even more cynically should such a thing be possible, a lower budget means a higher profit margin. Quality be damned when profits are at stake!
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+1 #5 jim 2011-05-21 10:54
Quoting Matthew Jones:
Fear not, Mr Mount, I have done the research for you. According to the supremely fallible font of knowledge that is Wikipedia, the first film had a budget of $140 million, the second $225 million and the third $300 million. The franchise's new offering supposedly cost $150 million, making it almost as cheap as the first film, but radically cheaper than either of the others.

That's really odd to me, can someone who knows more tell me why they would invest less? Makes no sense to me.
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0 #4 PaulM 2011-05-21 07:46
Cheers Matthew. Not exactly down-the-back-of-the-settee money but interestingly half the budget of the third fllm and it certainly shows on screen as far as I'm concerned. Thanks again!
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+3 #3 Matthew Jones 2011-05-21 00:52
Fear not, Mr Mount, I have done the research for you. According to the supremely fallible font of knowledge that is Wikipedia, the first film had a budget of $140 million, the second $225 million and the third $300 million. The franchise's new offering supposedly cost $150 million, making it almost as cheap as the first film, but radically cheaper than either of the others.
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+1 #2 PaulM 2011-05-21 00:27
I'm sure I read that the film had a substantially-reduced budget (if I wans't so lazy I'd look it up!) but it just looks smaller-scale than any of the earlier films. It's a real shame as I really loved the first film but the law of diminsinhg returns has really set in with this franchise.
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+1 #1 jim 2011-05-20 20:42
Scathing, wonder how the net savvy vocal fans will take this!
Could it really be 'cash strapped' though? I thought this was a sure fire cash cow?
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