i.e. The Fourth and Unnecessary Installment
I was really hoping for this movie to be good. I knew that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s characters were not to be in this ‘fourquel’, that we would go back to having more of Captain Barbossa, that Penelope Cruz was in it and that the antagonist would be Blackbeard. This was all good news to me. Despite these good changes, the writers still failed to achieve the fresh feeling of the first movie (and I would also argue the second instalment) which was full of adventure and had an engaging script. They began to definitely lose their writing craft by the 3rd movie once the plot became so convoluted that they had 2 characters essentially explain to the audience what was happening. But don’t get me started on the problems with At World’s End.
Although, On Stranger Tides doesn`t have as much problems with the script being over-bloated or confusing (they set out to find the Fountain of Youth), there are still numerous elements that are introduced and barely explained. I sense that there are a lot of cut scenes which were part of an earlier draft that expanded on these elements, but was cut for time. Some of these include inexplicable zombies that are rarely referenced, a one minute return cameo for Keith Richards as Cpt. Jack Sparrow`s dad (used merely for novelty sake) and mysterious aspects about Blackbeard and his ship that are never explained.
The biggest let down of the film is Blackbeard himself. The previous 3 movies had wonderful enemies (Barbossa, the Kraken, Davy Jones, various English folk), but Blackbeard is extremely dull. He is given barely any character development. He is not as fun as Barbossa, not as deadly as the Kraken and not as sympathetic as Davy. A rule I generally go by, is that if a film relies strongly on the struggles between Good vs. Evil, it needs to have a wonderful villain. You will find that if a film has a strong antagonist, it generally makes for a meaningful conflict and is therefore interesting.
Speaking of interesting, the film takes a long time to get there. I didn`t time it, but it seemed to take about 50 minutes until it became a fun pirate movie. It happens once we enter the mermaid scene. Despite all the criticizing I’ve been toting, the movie is not that bad. In fact, this introduction to the mermaids is the best part of the movie. It’s very eerie and builds a fantastic atmosphere which leads up to a great action set-piece. The score is still by Hans Zimmer, and with the inclusion of some Spanish characters (like Cruz`s) he is allowed to expand into a lot of fun Spanish-inspired music. Plus, throughout the film, you do still get the wonderful Barbossa and Sparrow. Each played by two wonderful actors who obviously have better movies to do, but they have so much fun playing these characters, it’s easy to see why they keep coming back to play them. These two are such wonderful creations (credit obviously to the 1st movie) and are so much fun to watch.
Summary: On the same level as the 3rd installment, maybe a bit lower. See it if you need to complete Jack`s journey, and so you can catch up with an inevitable 5th movie. But it’s still a pointless outing for the crew. On Stranger Tides is actually great if you’ve never seen the others! It is #961 out of the 1536 movies I’ve seen.