Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Keith Richards and Gemma Ward
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Runtime: 137 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Supernatural themes and violence

Who would have thought eight years ago that we would still be seeing Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, the most oddball pirate in screen history? But, he entered into the cinema audience consciousness and, judging by the final scenes of this episode and a tantalising 20 seconds with Penelope Cruz after the final credits, he looks ready to set sail for a fifth Pirates movie.

This one is more straightforwardly piratical than the previous outings – and, perhaps the better for it. No monsters and Davy Jones Locker or ghosts returning from the dead. This is more in the Treasure Island vein, journeys to find a particular treasure lost at the Fountain of Life. In fact, there are three ships in pursuit: the Spanish, an English expedition captained by Barbossa who shows no signs or indications of having been dead before, and an ambitious galleon with Blackbeard.

At the press preview, there was a power surge and we had to wait fifteen minutes for the lamp to cool before setting sail again. A resident wit who fancies his humorous comments on movies did a run through of the predictability of all the plot elements. Actually, he turned out to be quite wrong. You may think some events will happen, and some of them do, but not in the way we might have expected.

The opening sets a rollicking tone, set in London where Jack Sparrow impersonates a judge to orchestrate a plan to free fellow pirate, Gibbs, from the gallows. All goes well – for a time. Jack is hauled before the king (a fey parody by Richard Griffiths) who wants to get his hands on the Fountain of Life – and who has a captain and a ship commissioned: Captain Barbossa himself trying to become respectable. Audiences should be alert to Judi Dench’s amusing thirty second appearance as a society lady in a carriage.

Jack encounters his past love Angelica (a fiery Penelope Cruz) but is shanghaied and finds himself on Blackbeard’s ship, inciting a mutiny claiming that Blackbeard is not on board. Actually, Blackbeard was having some introverted time and, refreshed, appears again as a cruelly greedy pirate king (and Ian McShane obviously relishes playing the role).

They do get to the island of the Fountain of Youth (with Hawaiian locations). There are all kinds of adventures and mix-ups with Jack, Barbossa, Angelica, Blackbeard and the Spanish, as well as some long sequences with mermaids who are a mixture of sirens and vampires.

We can’t say all’s well that ends well, because there are too many advance notices that the ending is temporary and there will be more to come. With Johnny Depp afire as Jack, both with throwaway lines and cowardly courage, with Barbossa re-invigorated and Angelica given plenty of motivation to make a comeback, audience enjoyment continues…

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