Monday, May 23, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Indeed

File:On Stranger Tides Poster.jpg

In 2003, Disney released a movie based on the popular Disneyland attraction Pirates of the Caribbean, called Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. When I saw it for the first time, I found myself rather enjoying it. It had a unique story that was easy to follow, along with some perfectly-timed humor and an outstanding performance from Johnny Depp, who plays the well-known Captain Jack Sparrow. Two sequels were released following the success of the movie, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, neither of which match the quality of the original. Due to my feelings on the third movie I was hesitent when I heard a fourth movie was being made, directed by Rob Marshall instead of Gore Verbinski. However, my interest increased when I found out elements were taken from the Tim Powers book, On Stranger Tides, which I will admit I haven't read. After seeing the movie, I will say that while it's an improvement over the third movie, it's still not as good as the first.

The film opens in London, where Jack Sparrow attempts to rescue Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally), his former first mate, from execution. Though he fails, we also learn that he is there to track down an imposter using his name, rumored to be gathering a crew to seek the Fountain of Youth. Jack is brought before King George II (Richard Griffiths), who believes Jack Sparrow to actually be seeking the Fountain and requests the Captain to guide an expedition lead by ex-pirate Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), returning from the third movie as a privateer after losing a leg and the Black Pearl ship, in hopes that they can reach the Fountain before the Spanish do. Jack escapes and manages to locate and fight his imposter, who turns out to be his former lover Angelica (Penélope Cruz) and is discovered to also be the daughter of the infamous Blackbeard, aka Edward Teach (Ian McShane). Jack is then forced to join Blackbeard's crew in a race to locate and use the Fountain of Youth before the British and Spanish get to it first.

The story of this installment was more straight-forward than the last Pirates movie, and the atmosphere felt closer to that of the first two with it's blend of action and humor. Though Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann respectively, do not appear in this movie, Johnny Depp carries most of the movie alone with his usual entertaining performance. One thing I found odd though was how supernatural the movie became. Blackbeard in the movie is depicted as having a sword that allows him to control his ship by rubbing jewels on the guard, with such actions as steering the ship when no one's on board and manipulating rope. While I know Blackbeard is taken from the book this movie was partially based on, I don't know if he can do that in the book or if it was included for the film, but either way it seemed a little weird to me.

Being a Pirates movie, On Stranger Tides has plenty of action in the well-coreographed fight scenes, backed up perfectly with a score by Hans Zimmer and Rodrigo y Gabriela. While the fights were well-done, the one at the beginning between Jack Sparrow and his imposter was a little hard to follow since half the time I couldn't tell which one was the real one, and not just because the imposter wore a perfect disguise. While I'm on this subject, it's clear that they were trying to hide the imposter's face, but sometimes you see it anyway, though not enough to tell that it's really a woman. Otherwise, the battle scenes are busy, yet easy to follow.

The effects from Industrial Light and Magic are simply stunning to look at and quite convincing. The effects of the mermaids for instance are subtle when transitioning from mythical sea creature to human female, and their scales look very realistic in these states. The lighting helps to set the mood of each scene and blends in rather well with the special effects. To bring up a negative point, there was one scene in the movie where the visuals didn't make much sense, wherein Jack Sparrow sees and touches a water droplet slwoly floating upwards, after which he discovers an entrance to a cave. Otherwise, like the installments before, this movie is visually amazing.

One thing I should bring up, however, is that the film seemed to have a mild religious subtext. Unfortunately, to explain it requires a spoiler tag. *Spoiler Alert* Once Blackbeard's crew reaches the Fountain of Youth with the required chalices and mermaid's tear, they are soon joined by and fight Barbossa's crew from Britain. During the battle, the Spanish appear and take the chalices, at which point their leader stomps on them. His justification for this is that only God can grant eternal life, not the Fountain of Youth. *End Spoiler Alert*

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is an enjoyable movie, despite some small glitches. It feels similar to the first movie in a good way and has plenty of laughs to compliment the action that takes place. If you are a Pirates fan, but not of the third movie, this one is like a breath of fresh air for the series. I would also recommend this movie to any Johnny Depp fan, especially since he takes the spotlight of this movie. On the other hand, if you are a newcomer to the Pirates franchise, I would suggest watching the other movies first, since there are things that don't make as much sense without some knowledge of them. In any case, if you do see it you should stay after the credits, since it appears to set up a Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

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