Monday, June 6, 2011

Current Reels: Pirates o' the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides proves goodly enough, mateys

Image courtesy of Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Yarr mateys, here we be again with Jack Sparrow and his son of a sea rahhht friends On Stranger Tides. And it wasn't half bad.

I have to say, I had my doubts. As many of you know I am a big fan of pirate lore and pirates in general, but the thing I didn't like about the last film, At World's End, was that they were trying too hard to make it into a BIG EPIC TALE: sort like Lord of the Rings with pirates. SPOILER AHEAD MATEYS IN REGARD TO WORLD'S END: About the time I got to the scene where Jack Sparrow and Davey Jones are fighting each other on the prow of their decks as their ships swirled around in a giant sinkhole in the middle of the ocean...well, I'd had enough.

I didn't go to this film expecting a bucket full o' treasure, but I left feeling like I had a lot of fun.

You could tell from the start they had stripped down a lot of the characters from the first film, not having Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan (played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, respectively) which I was just as happy about. Their plotline had gotten worn down to the nubbin and frankly, their constant whining was starting to piss me off. A lot of the minor characters were chucked, which made for a more streamlined story that revolved mainly around Blackbeard (Ian McShane), his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz) Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp, of course), and Captain Barbosa, played by the ever-versatile and captivating Geoffrey Rush.

I would like to take a moment and just gush about Rush's performance in this film. He is 150 percent pirate. There is a great part when he is telling Jack about his epic battle with Blackbeard and you can see the story unfold in the fire of his eyes. This is a true actor, my friends; when someone can steal you into a tale on the strength of their voice and expression, that defies all action sequences and special effects. And when Barbosa gets his just deserts at the end, you can't help but feel a swell of pride on behalf of his character.

The saddest part about this film is despite the scaled-down nature and more plot-based storyline (less reliant on a variety of action sequences and special effects that bogged down the third film) is the plot isn't terribly good. Jack is on a quest for the fountain of youth, as is Spain, as is Blackbeard. And everyone seems to find it without too much trouble, which seems odd for being such an elusive thing. Cruz is entertaining as Angelica, a good strong pirate gal (with a kickass hat) that Geena Davis of Cutthroat Island could be proud of, but her relationship with Jack is rather frustrating. One minute they love one another, the next they are trying to kill one another. The playful banter is nice but some kind of consistency in what the heck is going on between the two of them would be nice.

Also, while I love Ian McShane and he always plays a good villain, his rendition of Blackbeard didn't exactly shiver me timbers. I never got the impression he was truly as evil as he was portrayed to be...maybe just indifferent to good rather than opposed to it? And his ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was impressive but a wee bit too CGI-ed for my taste.

The mermaids are terrifyingly lovely and some of the best use of non-action CGI I have seen as of late. I particularly enjoyed that when they showed their more deadly side, they did not transform completely into ugly, terrifying beasts - the fact that they retain their beauty while adding just a touch more bite to their bark was highly enjoyable.

In essence, this film was a fun ride, and a good coda, bringing back some of the beloved characters of the past movies, but the script be gettin' a little green around the gills, me hearties. The sharp biting crispness and pace of the first movie seems te be all but lost, but endin' the film on the shore with Sparrow and Mr. Gibbs, his loyal mate from the start, seems like a good enough endin' fer the likes o' me.

Now, let's be pointin' our compass for other shores besides the Caribbean and leave Capt. Jack well alone. There be other pirate tales and plots uncharted to explore.

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