Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TGD Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Some four years ago, I thought the adventures of Jack Sparrow were gone from the silver screen once the storyline shared between Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann had run its course. This seemed fitting since it was one of the few trilogies whose three movies I liked and liked equally well at that (I smell a top five list).

When I heard there was to be a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, I winced. The potential for a movie franchise at the top of its game to keep making movies until they produced a real stinker did not sit well with me. I remembered Michael Jordan’s years on the Washington Wizards.

Still, I knew I would want to see it as the Pirates films should be seen, on the big screen. This past Sunday, I ventured out with my wife and kids plus one friend and did just that. As you probably guessed, I’m going to tell you what I thought of it whether you like it or not.

The Plus Side: The action, the fighting, the humor and the…piracy are all there as in the previous films. Swords are swung, cannons are fired, things explode and Jack, sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow stumbles his way into perfectly timed escapes and maneuvers one after another. This is all as you expect from the series and does not disappoint.

Then there is the addition of Blackbeard, played well by Ian McShane, who adds an extra level of mystery, magic and fiendishness. As the various conniving and morally corrupt pirates in the film interact with one another, Blackbeard proves to be a formidable and intimidating opponent. As the search for the Fountain of Youth is undertaken, we soon find out many participants in the search have their own agendas.

The most enamoring thread of the movie involves Geoffrey Rush’s performance as Captain Barbossa whom we discover near the start of the film to be a new member of the British Royal Navy. Rush’s portrayal of the low-life pirate captain fitting into his new role in order to get what he wants and finding out along the way just exactly what that is proves to be the most rewarding plot element.

One other point. I did not see this one in 3D as I have been leery to spend the extra money on a method that I think is being used too often as of late. However, Tuesday saw me chaperoning my seven-year-old’s field trip to a 3D IMAX movie and they played the trailer prior to it. I regretted then being so cheap as the 3D IMAX version of just the trailer scenes was amazing (now I smell a lesson learned).

The Down Side: Penelope Cruz’s character didn’t do much for me. I was so unimpressed with her, in fact, that I don’t recall her character’s name in the movie and don’t even care to look it up right now. So there. It seemed lie they needed to place a well-known actress in some sort of starring role and Penelope (she won’t mind if I just call her Penelope, will she?) was it.

In fact, this seems to be my biggest problem with this movie. I get that it’s a summer action blockbuster, but a lot of the action and creepy special effects seem to be used just to fit in extra gimmicks (and a pointless cameo by Keith Richards) more than to progress the plot. The intricate plot was a major strength of the previous three films and it definitely was not as engaging in this fourth part.

The Wrap Up: If you want a summer blockbuster, and you like the Pirates movies already, it’s worth the trip. Lots of action and lots of clever Jack Sparrow dialogue and trickery, though I personally thought Barbossa stole the show.

Basically, you get a trimmed down version of the original three movies. There is a slight hint that another movie may be in the works, but it’s not quite as blatant as in the previous trilogy and that leaves you lacking the excitement of anticipation.

Keep in mind that younger kids will be scared by some scenes. The mermaids are particularly terrifying. However, there’s nothing overly sexual or gory that requires you be ready to cover any eyes.

TGD Rating: In keeping with our theme that one full star s the highest possible honor a film can receive despite the obvious confusion it is causing (you’re smart readers, I know you’ll catch on eventually), I hereby award Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 7/10 of a star. As I said, it is worth seeing on the big screen and is fun and exciting. The effects are great as always and the actors do a great job with each individual character, though the plot itself may be sparse.

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