Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Review

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise more and more became kind of like the Matrix franchise: while the first one was absolutely awesome (and managed to make pirates cool again) the two sequels are unnecessary, disappointing and only hurt the franchise. With "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (Pirates 4), the producers said to themselves "fuck Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. We just need Johnny Depp back to get this movie going.".
It's bad enough that Hollywood didn't learn a lesson that after a bad Pirates 3, people don't want to see more of the same, but now we get a movie which completely advertises itself just with having Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in it.
None of the various trailers managed to impress me enough to think that this fourth installment is going to be different than part 2 or 3. But well i have to admit that the idea of a quest for the Fountain of Youth has quite some potential. Maybe director Rob Marshall can set things right this time.

The plot:
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz), and he's not sure if it's love -- or if she's just a ruthless pirate who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn't know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.

Unlike Pirates 2 and 3, which were kind of connected to one another, Pirates 4 is more of a standalone story and far more solid and straightforward than the convoluted previous sequels. The biggest flaw of this movie anyway, probably is the lack of most of the previous pirates' cast. Orlando, Keira, etc. everybody seems to be gone...oh well they have been replaced in a way. It immediately gets clear that the entire franchise is now focused on Jack Sparrow. Without him or Johnny Depp himself, there probably wouldn't be any other pirates movie.

The acting is kind of a mixed bag. With Jack Sparrow/Johnny Depp, you can definately say that it's the script causing the problems. With every sequel Jack Sparrow somehow got unfunnier and unfunnier. Maybe it's the thing that now everybody is getting used to him or simply that the writers aren't as creative anymore as in the original. Only a few of the jokes uttered by Sparrow are actually funny but they are far from his best ones. Most of the jokes are not really "laugh jokes" but more of "smile jokes".
Also I never really got Sparrow's motive why he even wants to get to the fountain. Is it money? Or does he want to use the fountain himself? Well anyway...
It's truly interesting how Captain Barbossa now is the most interesting and undpredictable character that Jack Sparrow used to be. Geoffrey Rush probably is the best actor in Pirates 4. His character might not get as much screentime as he deserves but when he actually gets it, he knows how to use it.
Next, we have Penelope Cruz. She represents the badass chick of this movie, replacing Keira Knightley's badassness in a way. Sure she looks good but somehow i couldn't take her seriously as a "mean and nasty" pirate. Why do all those pirate chicks have to look like models? Keira Knightley had royal roots so it made sense but this time...well not. Her role might fit as the "love interest" of Sparrow but this also is the only reason this character is even in this movie.
Then we got Ian McShane as Blackbeard. McShane succeeds more with his looks than with his acting. Considering that he is said to be the "most evil pirate out there" he doesn't really impress much. He probably should have better been not as calm and emotional as he is here. If it comes down to who ultimately is more intimidating: Barbossa vs. Blackbeard, then Barbossa clearly would be the winner. Although the build-up to Blackbeard's reveal is pretty exciting: Meaning that nobody of the crew members ever saw him or knows how he looks like etc.. but then when we get to see him it's like "alright i thought he'd be scarier".
The most OBVIOUS replacement in Pirates 4 is Sam Claflin as Philip and the mermaid Syrena played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Their love relationship (which comes RIGHT THE FUCK OUT OF NOWHERE!) is the replacement for the missing one between Orlando and Keira. Also Philip is almost an exact copy of Orlando's character William from the previous pirates flicks (they way he talks and his looks).
Oh and by the way: WHY THE FUCK is Keith Richards in this movie again? His role is so fucking bland and pointless. Jack Sparrow is exactly that kind of character that people don't want to know about his backstory or father! Without any backstory that character would be more interesting (just like how they fucked up Hannibal Lecter or Michael Myers giving them a backstory that took away all the mystery about them). Just pointless and stupid. But that's just me talking.

Another issue is the dialogue. The dialogue is mostly boring as hell because it's always more of the same or totally uninspired and filled with lame jokes. Especially with Penelope and Johnny: "Remember back in the day...when i loved you but also tried to kill you.....remember back in the day, whe.." ENOUGH! WE GET IT! Some of them are just filler between two action scenes.

The action is most definately the main focus of Pirates 4. Unfortunately most of the scenes are incredibly slow paced and often a bit too goofy. I know that it's hard to make good exciting sword fights, but here it looks like they didn't even try. If you could describe the action scenes in Pirates 4 in one word, it would be "exhausting": right after the first action scene you get that the movie puts action scene after action scene. Almost nonstop. Unluckily those scenes differentiate not enough from each other. Also the intensitiy of the action scenes decreases significantly due to their quantity.
Luckily the use of CGI is kept pretty low and only taken advantage of when necessary (except for that stupid CGI snake).

But now enough bitching. The only GOOD and COOL thing about this movie undeniably is the addition of voodoo zombies and especially mermaids. It's such a cool idea that now mermaids aren't just hot fishy babes but also evil deadly creatures that actually kill and EAT people...AWESOME! The first encounter with them is easily the highlight of the entire flick. Yet still it's hard to say if this scene alone is worth watching the movie.

As a whole, Pirates 4 is just a row of mediocre action scenes and lame jokes. It's definately better than pirates 3 but that nor is a big achievement neither does it give the audience enough new things to gaze at. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise really should end here. With a length of slightly over two hours, the movie feels way too long. It feels like it should have been better off as a 90 minute experience. Pirates 4 is less of a BAD movie than it is an unnecessary, been-there-done-that movie (especially compared to the great original). Fans of the previous sequels probably will even get a kick out of this flick despite of it's lack of originality and variety. But honestly, there's not much to find or explore in this sinking ship called "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides".

Final Verdict: 4 out of 10


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