- 20 May 11
Less swashbuckling than very safe, lucrative maritime money-spinner proves predictable
In the fourth installment of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his motley crew employ zombie sailors, voodoo magic and mermaids to aid them in their quest to find the fountain of eternal youth. It’s most definitely a case of art imitating life as, eight years on from the original, On Stranger Tides tries every fantastical gimmick going in an attempt to keep things feeling fresh.
Apart from the obvious 3D, another new addition is director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine), whose theatrical style comes to the fore. As Sparrow’s japes bring him from a London palace to the high seas and into the dark depths of treacherous jungles, the sets and sheer scale of the film are both beautiful and intoxicating. Marshall also brings great flair to the action sequences, and On Stranger Tides boasts some of the most invigorating, brilliantly choreographed fight sequences of the series. But as they punctuate the film at too-regular intervals, the overlong sword-clashing scenes move from feeling big, bold and fun, to decidedly routine.
In On Stranger Tides, erstwhile arch-enemies Sparrow and Barosa (Rush) find a begrudging respect for each other, and their new chemistry leads to some brilliantly funny moments. But though pretty but personality-free Orlando Bloom has been replaced with beefcake Sam Claflin, and Penélope Cruz has usurped Keira Knighley’s role as the token sassy (ie. complaining) girl, their relationships don’t match the chemistry of the original trio. Claflin’s romantic subplot with a mermaid is completely unnecessary, while Cruz is oddly flat, bringing little to her supposedly heated sparks with Sparrow.
The introduction of vampiric mermaids and Ian McShane’s sociopathic Blackbeard add some spice to the proceedings, while Depp is, as ever, a tick-laden delight. More safe than swashbuckling, On Stranger Tides basically pirates its own predecessors. But, hey, it’ll keep the fans entertained.