[spoiler warning: limited]
So last week I was lucky enough to go to a press screening of Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides. It was earlier in the morning than I’d like, it was raining and generally quite a miserable day. Perfect weather for a visit to the cinema, just had to hope I didn’t fall asleep in the hall. Thankfully this fourth installment was enjoyable and certainly a good start to that day.
The film is fairly successful as an addition to the popular Disney series, though still nowhere near as good as the first. Loosely based on an 1987 novel, On Stranger Tides sees Jack and some other sea dogs racing to find the Fountain of Youth. The opening scenes in London drag on for longer than necessary and while it doesn’t hesitate to start a sword fight and have the daring Jack Sparrow escape from many a situation, it seems fairly lackluster as it is all show and very little plot. At the end of the stint in London, we are introduced to Penelope Cruz’s character, Angelica, who is, unfortunately, my biggest let down in this film. After a good sword fight as Jack tries to unmask his impersonator, Angelica goes from “I am pirate: Hear me Ahaar!” to “Hear me whinge”. The rest of the film consists of her constantly trying to seduce Jack or having silly monologues .The few good lines don’t make up for her pouting and tantrums. Most disappointing.
The rest of the main cast certainly entertain in their own way. Johnny Depp is stellar in his return as Cap’n Jack, dialling down the crazy but just enough so he remains the character we know and love. Geoffrey Rush makes a fantastic return as the eccentric and calculating Barbossa even as he’s missing a leg. His disdain for Blackbeard is palpable and his cold approach to peoples lives shows him for the Pirate he truly is. McShane’s Blackbeard is a little underdeveloped mostly due to the space needed to further the plot but the effects surrounding his control of his ship are fairly well done.
I would have to say, however, that the best moment in the film is the mermaid scene. As one of the pirates tells of the mermaid legends for those in the audience not savvy to their true nature, the mood is set for a dark and mysterious event that promises to instil fear in the tiny hearts of children. There is exactly the right mix of femininity and feral animal quality to these mermaids which makes it extremely exciting. Definitely the highlight of the film.
This then leads to the most hilarious subplot within the narrative. As Blackbeard’s crew catch a mermaid a love begins to blossom between said mermaid and a preacher kept with the crew to pray for Blackbeards soul before he dies. The preacher appears very shocked and outraged by the pirate nature around him as he is kept captive and for the most part he seems very moral and self contained. This is shattered as he falls for the mermaid and is soon strutting around shirtless as he lends her his top to cover her modesty.
It’s a very sweet part to the plot but I can’t help giggling at how silly the transformation is. When he began to have more significance in the film, It was obvious he was there as eye candy for the girls in the audience. His shirtless strutting just added to the hilarity. though the appeal of this distraction was almost destroyed forever when the preacher names the mermaid, Syreena. Wow, really? I know Disney is not great as subtlety but naming a mermaid, who’s basically a Siren, Syreena is just a little too cheesy for me.
Without trying to give too much away, the ending is highly predictable though it does keep you second guessing, just in case it doesn’t go as you expect. After the action at the Fountain of Youth, the ending appears to mirror the pace of the beginning: slow and a little long. In a style reminiscent of the ending to Lord of the Rings, there’s a few short scenes trying to wrap up loose ends, though leaving them open ended enough to explore further in the future. Oh well.
One last point. This film is available in 3D, just like so many films excited by this technology and ready to make more money. Personally, I’d avoid it where possible. It’s not necessary and a little clunky in my opinion. For the most part it’s fairly unnoticeable though does offer a pleasant depth. Occasionally it shoves a sword in your face which makes you aware of the 3D but in an obtrusive fashion when really, you just want to watch the film.
Overall, a good film. Watchable, enjoyable, rewatchable though not in quick succession, and appropriate for family viewing. Available to see in 3D and 2D in the UK from tomorrow (Wednesday 18/5). Happy Viewing.
[also found on The Daily Rupert]