Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Given the god-awful reviews this fourth entry in the franchise has received, you might well wonder what possessed us to go to the cinema to view it.  Well, for starters, we did enjoy the first three movies, largely because of Johnny Depp's great likeability with his camp rendering of Captain Jack Sparrow, and we could see little reason not to expect more of the same jolly hijinks.  Also I was curious to discover whether 3D would add anything to the entertainment equation, since all blockbusters now seem duty-bound to embrace this technology.

There is no denying that the film is something of an overstuffed, bloated, and lazily-scripted mess, but Depp continues to carry the viewer along with his cheeky charm and occasionally improvised jolly quips.  It's a stand-alone entry in the series with the tiresome characters portrayed by Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in the previous films written out -- and I for one am happy to see the back of them.  The new star attraction is meant to be Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard's daughter and Depp's old flame, but I have never been enamoured of her English-speaking roles (for starters she is difficult to understand -- mumble, mumble) and I do not find her the beauty that some do.  Ian McShane as her ruthless dad with his ship's crew of zombies is a welcome addition, but Geoffrey Rush seems to be coasting in his return as the now respectable Barbossa.  The stretched-out plot is based on a race by the British, the Spaniards, and the various pirates to find the Fountain of Youth; this turns out to be something of a McGuffin, as the mechanics of the tale are nearly impossible to follow. The convoluted story is not aided by the useless mermaid/Holy Joe subplot which is simply filler or mulch, and when I would like to know did mermaids develop vampire fangs!  Depp's role model Keith Richards returns for a welcome cameo, but Depp apart, there is little else to amuse one in all the frantic derring-do.

As for the 3-D, this worked well in the film's exciting opening scenes, as Sparrow escapes the gallows and is chased through London by a horde of redcoats.  In the bright daylight and panoramic background, the third dimensional effects are startling;  they are far less effective in most of the later gloomy settings.  I honestly believe that the movie would have been no less entertaining without the added dimension, but we seem to be lumbered with the technology as something of a 'must' nowadays, and too often it adds zilch.  Meanwhile we are promised at least another two P of C films to come. One can't help but wonder whether Depp will tire of the character before we do or whether he can continue to lure us into his increasingly tiresome adventures. 

When I returned home I watched "Mary and Max", a 2009 Australian claymation (for adults) and found this a far more satisfying and intelligent experience.  Unfortunately, small but charming movies will never find the same wide audience that the charismatic Mr. Depp continues to attract.    
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