A worthy adventure for Pirates
Disney is back to add to its coffers with yet another entry in the most successful franchise the Mouse House has ever produced. With the bloated, convoluted nature of the last two entries in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, I was not looking forward to it. However, I wound up being pleasantly surprised by On Stranger Tides, a more straightforward adventure that feels shorter than its 140-minute running time. Thanks goes to director Rob Marshall who continually pushes the story forward, telling an engaging tale. It’s the darkest one of the series and has the highest dramatic stakes for its characters.
The film’s first half hour features the franchise staples of daring escapes and hard-to-follow sword fights as our hero, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), needs to escape execution. Once that’s dispensed with, he finds that someone claiming to be him is putting together a crew to search for the Fountain of Youth. The charlatan is his former lover, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who’s setting out to find the elusive spring with her father, Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Sparrow is shanghaied and finds himself on board their ship, the haunted Queen Anne’s Revenge. Meanwhile, the British government has recruited Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to lead his own expedition for the fountain in order to beat the Spaniards who are also seeking it.
The voyage of the Spanish fleet plays out on the periphery of the story as screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio streamline the story by focusing on the other two storylines. There are a few too many sword fights but there is more focus on the characters, who are given a bit more depth this time around.
McShane has great fun as Blackbeard, a role in which he can cackle and glower, making a grand entrance with a smoldering beard and a troubled soul. His motivation and the peril he faces is the most intriguing in the film, as he requires the fountain’s powers in order to stave off a prophecy of impending doom. Meanwhile, Angelica is intent on saving his soul with the help of a young clergyman (Sam Calflin) who’s as hunky as he is devout. The question if even the most deplorable among us are worthy of redemption is an intriguing one. This theme, as well as all of the spectacle a $200 million budget can buy, make for an unexpectedly entertaining summer movie.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.