Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The screening for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES was at 7pm on a Tuesday. There was a lot of excitement in the theater and we even had a handful of people dressed as pirates that were entertaining the kids who were eagerly anticipating the return of Captain Jack Sparrow. About halfway through, I took off my 3D glasses to adjust them and when I looked around, I noticed three people within 20 feet of me that had fallen asleep. It was a generous mix of people, ranging from a 12 year-old boy to a 30 something year-old woman. As we were leaving, I heard someone behind me lean to her movie companion and ask “wait…what happened to that guy from Deadwood” (I presume she fell asleep as well). I mention these anomalies to point out that the fourth installment in the Pirates franchise is severely lacking, but you’ll only recognize that if you manage to stay awake through the entire film.
The fourth film finds Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in London, hot on the heels of someone pretending to be him in order to put a crew together. After a run-in with his old nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), he confronts the would-be imposter, only to find out it’s his long lost love Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Soon, he finds himself on the ship of Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and is thrust into the chase for the Fountain of Youth, which Barbossa and the unnamed Spaniards are also pursuing.
Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are long gone from the fourth Pirates film and with them, went all the heart from the franchise. All the attention from the trilogy was always on Jack Sparrow, but if Stranger Tides taught us anything, it’s that Sparrow is better served as a supporting character to someone else’s journey than trying to carry his own film. The importance of Turner and Swann was severely underappreciated as their involvement gave the films something the audience cared about and something we could root for. In Tides, we had neither. I didn’t care about Sparrow’s journey and the last thing I wanted was for any character to find and successfully drink from the Fountain of Youth; that would only give more excuses for more sequels.
Captain Jack Sparrow is the hero by default, but who is the villain in this film? Blackbeard? No. Although he’s villain-y, he hardly poses any threat to Sparrow and tends to tolerate his antics more than most people would. Barbossa? Not really. He and Sparrow even team up at one point in the film, making any bad blood between them seem forced at best. The Spaniards? Not even close. I’m still trying to figure out why they were even in the story in the first place. The mermaids? Nope. By the end of the film, it’s not clear who exactly are the antagonists and protagonists, but it doesn’t matter because the journey they’re on is one no one cares about.
But really, the flat tones and general pointlessness of the film should come as no surprise to anyone. Jack Sparrow was never meant to carry his own film and the Pirates franchise was never meant to extend past the first one. The fact they’ve made it to four is shocking in its own right. So the fourth film gave the world what we expected; mindless action, shallow characters and Johnny Depp prancing around on screen with a few funny one-liners thrown in for good measure. Chances are good that will be acceptable to a lot of people, but it wasn’t enough for me.