Searching for Eternal Life in the Interminable Pirates of the Caribbean

Searching for Eternal Life in the Interminable <i>Pirates of the Caribbean</i>
Peter Mountain, Disney Enterprises, Inc.

After sinking into self-important tedium with its prior two overstuffed installments, Pirates of the Caribbean seemed destined for permanent burial at sea. And yet the soggy franchise and Johnny Depp's foppish rapscallion return again for On Stranger Tides—to search for the fountain of youth, no less, a quest that Chicago director Rob Marshall (taking the helm from Gore Verbinski) embellishes with the usual gaggle of musty ships-and-sabers tropes and cacophonous CGI.

Captain Jack Sparrow’s limb-flailing shenanigans had already become old-hat during his past outings, so Depp's routine—the look-at-me flamboyance of his trinket-decorated braided hair, flowing scarves, and giant rings, as well as his half-drunken flouncing, lisping, and pratfalling—is no longer a surprise but rather a dreary expectation fulfilled. More astonishing, however, is that even though it does away with its preceding trilogy’s plot-heavy mythology for a supposedly more streamlined stand-alone story, the ensuing tale—in which Jack reluctantly teams with his former flame, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), and her iconic baddie daddy, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), to reach the legendary fountain before English king–employed Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush)—is a familiar mess of rules, rituals, creatures, and chandelier-swinging, sword-clashing pandemonium.

No knowledge of the first three Pirates films is required for this fourth go-around, a merciful development given how severely forgettable the previous convoluted machinations were. More merciful still is that Dull (Keira Knightley) and Duller (Orlando Bloom) have also been jettisoned, their milquetoast fashion-model-pretty amour here replaced by Jack’s spirited love/hate passions for Angelica, a Feisty Spanish Sexpot whose heart the pirate broke years earlier. The couple’s initial reunion involves Angelica posing as Jack, thereby positing her as his equal, as well as re-establishing Jack’s trademark self-love, a trait Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio’s screenplay attempts to complicate by having the gold-toothed scoundrel eventually confess to having actual “feelings” for Angelica.

Johnny Depp dresses up for money.
Peter Mountain, Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Johnny Depp dresses up for money.

Regardless, On Stranger Tides merely feigns at delivering a more mushy-hearted Jack, all while establishing a narrative goal for its hero and then erecting constant intricate impediments designed to maintain a mood of head-spinning business. Instead of fleshing out Jack's personal hunger for ceaseless longevity, we get rescues from prison, foolhardy mutinies, redemption-preaching missionaries, and carnivorous mermaids. The plot feels strained in both its tense, romantic repartee and in its rollicking centerpieces, as Marshall shoots Jack and Angelica’s maiden duel with invigorating clarity and rhythm before succumbing to his typical edited-to-ribbons incoherence.

As befitting a saga about ne’er-do-wells engaged in supernatural adventure, On Stranger Tides depicts pious zealots as killjoys, but it’s Jack who turns out to be the real downer. Although Depp seems to have rediscovered a bit of the original spark that was MIA in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, and the script provides plentiful opportunities for him to devour scenery, his Jack remains a once-inspired creation now far less funny than he fancies himself, and consequently Marshall’s film often plays like a series of setups for Sparrow-centric payoffs that never materialize. Still, at least Depp is given something to do; McShane, on the other hand, is relegated to exuding evil mainly via his long scraggly beard, and Rush is stuck for the first two-thirds at a remove from the action proper, blaring “Yar!” and “Aye, aye!” as he pursues Jack on a ship full of British stiffs.

As the seductive and conniving Angelica, Cruz is luminous, albeit not enough to compensate for Marshall shrouding virtually every major set piece in nighttime fogginess. Further sabotaged by light-dimming 3-D, the visual murkiness comes off as a blatant attempt to mask the shoddiness of the special effects and the unoriginality of the combat choreography, and ultimately proves directly at odds with a story driven by its characters’ desire to escape death’s everlasting darkness. Jack will no doubt live to prance another day, but from Depp’s fey bon mots to a cameoing Keith Richards’s scraggly visage, his swashbuckling series is showing its age.

 
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18 comments
Debra
Debra

Hey reviewer, do the words "pompous ass" mean anything to you? Sheesh. Hey people, any movie you see is going to be affected by your own taste. Don't waste your time with any review. Make your own decisions. You know, think for yourselves.

Derty Ernie
Derty Ernie

Saw it yesterday. I almost walked out about a third of the way but the price was cheap. I thought that Depp and others mailed it in basically. Took the money and ran. The story line was like they made it up as they went along not sure how to end the movie. If you miss this installment, don't feel bad.

Tallulah Alice Mae
Tallulah Alice Mae

Bloody boring and disconnected movie. I agree with this review. Except for one thing - Cruz luminous? I strugled to think of a character for whom I've given less of a crap. Ugh.

Correoinexistente
Correoinexistente

Penelope cruz ruined the movie with her boring exagerated accent

Gwildbur
Gwildbur

I don't know what planet this reviewer was on when he saw movie or perhaps what he was on but this was a GREAT, and very entertaining movie. The 3D effects were wonderful. Perhaps this reviewer had one too many rums before he saw this movie. Do yourselves a favor go and see this movie it is terrific.

Dernie Ernie
Dernie Ernie

I think we know who the drinker was pally.

M163
M163

justin tv has a free version of this lousy movie, in english, though with russian titles.

Free Parking
Free Parking

Well put. Thank you Mr. Schager. Another dumbed-down money-maker - it's getting tiring.

Cheesyrider
Cheesyrider

Why should it matter what anyone was paid? Movies are about fun, an escape from everyday reality, a fantastic voyage into the unknown. This film, which I just saw, was truly marvelous. A wonderful adventure on the high seas. Setting sail with Captain Jack Sparrow was a thrill, and it proved that our raucous rapier wielding rascal has command of a crew of millions worldwide. No matter how mutinous a crew can become, we still want to sail alongside his every voyage. Beautiful natural sets, very talented and immensely well assembled cast, and perfect music make this another must see theater experience.

Biff
Biff

This isn't an escape from the everyday. It's boring. The everyday is much more interesting that this drivel.

Qtee64
Qtee64

Can't WAIT to see it, I'm sure it will be everything I want it to be....I'm pleased as punch they made another one!

Sakara
Sakara

you teenagers really go for this shit, huh?

Qtee64
Qtee64

I'm 47 (Thank you very much) And have been extremely pleased with ALL the Pirates movies. Why does it have to be teenagers? Why can't YOU just sit back and enjoy the ride? Critics have never given this series of movies thumbs up since the first one....but then again, they've been wrong on many things, so I'm glad I didn't listen to them. Johnny and producers have been doing something right because they made MILLIONS! I've bought every movie, and am sure will buy this one too~

guest
guest

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As befitting a saga about ne’er-do-wells engaged in supernatural adventure, On Stranger Tides depicts pious zealots as killjoys, but it’s Jack who turns out to be the real downer. Although Depp seems to have rediscovered a bit of the original spark that was MIA in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End,

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Royce Mathew
Royce Mathew

I have sued the Walt Disney Company, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio in regards the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise.

Due to the putrid legacy of Michael Eisner, and continuing with Robert Iger & the board I, Royce Mathew, am still fighting for accountability over the theft of my supernatural pirate story that was used by the Walt Disney Company to start their Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. See photo proof of their criminal acts which includes fraud, lies and corruption as carried out by the Walt Disney Company, Marty Sklar, Jason Surrell, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, on my website www.disneylawsuit.com

And check out this Marty Sklar / Michael Eisner / Royce Mathew photo proof:

http://i104.photobucket.com/al...

And here is a recent 2011 online interview with me (Royce Mathew) in regards to my career which involves Disney, Michael Eisner, Marty Sklar and more...

http://www.bigdaddyhorrorrevie...

- I welcome all communications as this serious matter is far from over.

Royce Mathew

Sakara
Sakara

One long winded review---and no mention that Depp got paid 50 million in advance to be in this movie....or that Depp is ENORMOUSLY BLAND WITHOUT HIS WC FIELDS IMPERSONATIONS.

 

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