My sophomore year of High School, I might have been the one student at Shawnee Mission East that wasn’t in a perpetual state of going Bonkers for the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, The Curse of the Black Pearl. I didn’t think it ever found a comfortable balance between the humor and adventure it was going for, and was left in an awkward state of flux in between.
Still, I wasn’t blind to everyone else’s enthusiasm, and I found myself excited for its two-for-one sequels, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. They came and went, neither doing much for me (though at least Dead Man’s Chest got its tone right). Even still, the amount of enthusiasm for the franchise from its fans and studio had me thinking a lot could go right with future sequels.
And with today’s On Stranger Tides, there were signs that my optimism would go justified – there was a new director, a practically new cast that lost what didn’t work in the first trilogy of films (Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly), kept what did (Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally), and added some solid actors with Penélope Cruz and Ian McShane. No one was defending parts two and three, and it looked like everyone on board understood they had to reinvigorate the franchise.But On Stranger Tides isn’t reinvigorated, in fact it shows almost zero signs of life at all.
No, On Stranger Tides aspires to do little more than successfully run on Auto-Pilot for its two-hour-plus running time. And, as much as its lack of ambition flirts with being offensive – what, you just assumed I’d enjoy it because it’s a Pirates movie? – it never crashes or burns. As Captain Jack is forced to lead the way towards the Fountain of Youth underneath the infamous Blackbeard (McShane) in a race alongside competing fleets from the British and Spanish Navies, the film manages to pull together a scant few pleasing moments.
One scene, where our Scurvy Curs discover encouter a troop of Mermaids, is one part fantasy and one part Jaws. And there’s a line now and then between Depp or Rush that inspired bona-fide laughter. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the final twenty minutes of the film showed up in the black, not enough to make up for the previous hundred-some minutes, but enough to keep a sour taste from sticking in my mouth.
But what a dull first two acts we’re forced to put up with beforehand. Disney Royalty by now, screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot (they of G-Force glory) aren’t even trying on this one, shitting out a script full of three times as much exposition as any film should require, especially films that are backed up with three films worth of backstory. This results in a seemingly never-ending melange of scenes entirely composed with dialogue. You shouldn’t have to sit through a solid hour of talking in a film about Pirates that stars a lovable drunk.
Action movies with this much talking can’t even be classified as Action movies; On Stranger Tides is just a thin premise of a film fleshed out by overcomplicated exchanges between unremarkable characters. It might work out in the end if the actors could make it work, but everyone in this business operation is just showing up for a paycheck.
But I’m going to leave on a positive note. I’m going to recommend that you skip paying the $15 it will cost to see this 3D film (A 3D film that does nothing to justify its extra dimension.) Instead, send $10 to Ian at P.O. Box 45451, Kansas City, MO 64171. In return, I’ll place the YouTube embed for the following Pirates of the Caribbean-themed humor music video by the Lonely Island. It’s funnier, more exciting, and, at worst, will only waste four minutes of your life as opposed to the 137 it would take to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.