Pirates of the Caribbean was a film franchise that definitely started off on its strongest note. While I enjoyed Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, they seemed to divide people between loving them and hating them. With Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley gone, the focus for On Stranger Tides goes solely on Jack. Or, at least, that’s the idea.
The plot deals with various crews racing to get to the fountain of youth. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, looking even more made-up than before) gets conscripted on to Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) ship, thanks to the first mate and former love interest for Jack, Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Meanwhile, Barbossa (Geoffery Rush) has become a privateer for the British, and the Spanish army, headed by The Spaniard (no, really, that’s what he’s credited as) also make an appearance. It really seems like they were simply trying to recreate the three-way plot that the first three movies had. The movie could’ve stood just as well with only Blackbeard’s ship, or even just Blackbeard and Barbossa. Besides providing a third-act twist, the Spanish army does nothing for most of the movie.
Another part that seems to be there just to recreate plot points is a romance subplot between a minister and a captured mermaid. It does nothing besides slow the movie down at random intervals. Instead, the romance plot we’d really love to know more about, between Jack and Angelica, is given nothing besides casual mentions now and again. There’s also other random slow scenes throughout the movie. At one point, Jack is being wishy-washy about jumping off of a cliff, and it changes into a completely different scene involving a primitive Russian Roulette. It doesn’t advance anything forwards, and the plot would’ve gotten to the same place with or without it, so why even have it?
Blackbeard could’ve also used some more development. He’s possibly the darkest villain the series has had, a force of pure evil. He also apparently has the ability to turn people into zombies, make voodoo dolls, and his ship has supernatural controls. None of this is ever really touched on as to how he can do it or why it’s important. It’s a loose thread left hanging, some of which I’m sure will be expanded on in the inevitable 5th movie.
The movie really thrives most on its action, humor and swashbuckling elements. The scene with the mermaids, while it’s a bit of a slow starter, turns into something much bigger and pretty exciting. Jack’s romp through London has plenty of great moments, including a meeting with King George and a swordfight against an impersonator. Johnny Depp seems to still be giving it his all, even if the franchise is starting to show its wear and tear.
On Stranger Tides isn’t the real shot that brings the franchise back to the level of the first movie, but it’s still a pretty enjoyable movie overall. It has humor and action. I’d say it’s my least favorite Pirates movie, but there’s still far worse ways to spend 2 hours.