Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) directed by Rob Marshall
Captain Jack is back in the fourth installment of the cash cow that is Pirates of the Caribbean. The first one was fun and exciting, one of the more memorable action adventures in recent memory. Then came the inevitable sequel that was too big for its britches, but the first Pirates was still fresh in our hearts and minds so we could let some of the transgressions slide in a passable encore. The third Pirates, to put it bluntly, was an abysmal and convoluted mess, pretty much ruining all the goodwill that the original created. But at least they seemed to tie all the loose ends in the storyline and mercifully laid the franchise to rest, or so we thought. I didn't think Johnny Depp would want to do another sequel as he seems like the kind of actor looking for new and interesting roles to take on, but there is only so much money you can turn down before you're like, "$56 million, really?" (I've read figures as low as $33m and as high as $75m but $56m seems to be the most quoted number, which would make this role the highest paid base salary for a movie ever.)
So going into On Stranger Tides, I wasn't expecting too much as my mouth was still bitter from the taste of At World's End and the previews looked less than promising. I had the misfortune of missing the 4:00 regular showing, so had to settle for the 4:30 3D showing. Word of advice to those who absolutely must see this film, please do not watch it in 3D. There are basically no 3D effects at all and the tint of the glasses make an already dark and murky picture look even darker. With my eyes feeling especially strained and some of the scenes unwatchable with the glasses on, there were moments I simply had to take them off to give my eyes a rest. And low and behold, there is barely any difference at all in the picture with the glasses on or off save for the little bit of fuzziness used in the layering effects for the 3D. I could not help but notice just how poor On Stranger Tides looked most of the time, which seems inexcusable for a big budget action adventure.
On Stranger Tides feels sloppy and lazy. The action scenes are surprisingly ho-hum and the laughs are few and far between. For a summer blockbuster, this movie doesn't feel fun at all. Depp seems to be going through the motions as there is only so much he can do with Jack Sparrow, who has lost so much of his luster over the course of these movies. While he was all the rage eight years ago, I doubt many people are going out this Halloween dressed as Captain Jack again. The story is messy, absurd, and at times hard to follow. More unforgivably, I simply didn't care what happened. Jack and other parties are looking for the fountain of youth for their own reasons, then there is something about catching mermaids, a woman from Jack's past (Penelope Cruz), the legendary pirate Blackbeard, and some pseudo-morality tale of faith and saving souls. By the time you get to the climatic finale, which is surprisingly good, you've already lost interest in the outcome.
Looking at the box office reports, it seems that On Stranger Tides has made a killing so far, but still a tad short of expectations. I'm sure by the end of its run, it will have made a nice little profit, but hopefully not enough for Bruckheimer and company to think about a Pirates 5, though it'll be interesting seeing Depp cash in the first ever $100m paycheck for a movie.