Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) Review:

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) was one of those rare films that was made all with the right people on board (no pun intended) and managed to become a title worthy of a franchise. The cast was talented, the music was memorable, the action was energetic, the writing was clever and it was filmed beautifully. Wistfully, like every popular franchise that becomes mainstream, there comes a point where the series begins to show its age. Audiences try not to accept it and go in hoping for the best but there always seems to be something out of place when the next chapter is made. Disney's Pirates has been subjected to that unfortunately but noticeably on a slower decline than many of its other counterpart strains. For this passage, the story is continued but shows that its writers are beginning to lose their grip on its mythology.

Blackbeard - Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides wallpaper
It's 3D!,....ish,...not really
After Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007), Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) had taken the map that lead to the fountain of youth. While on his way, he learns that he's not the only one. Turns out that the Spanish, the English (currently headed by Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush)) and the infamous Blackbeard (Ian McShane) are all headed to find it as well. Sparrow also runs into an old flame named Angelica (Penélope Cruz) who thinks Jack owes her a debt. The writing is developed once more by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (the duo that started it all). Delightfully the story doesn't contain as many confusing character threads as the previous film. However in spite of that, they managed to sloppily write a different aspect and that belongs to the character traits and disappearances. A big question that comes to mind is Blackbeard's ship and the powers that he has, which are controlled by a single sword.

So how exactly did he get these powers? No real reason is given as to why he has these powers other than waving around the magic sword but even that isn't explained. Along side that is Blackbeard's henchmen who are apparently mentioned as being “zombified” (which again isn't explained), can't be killed. In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Hector Barbossa and his crew had a reason to why they couldn't be killed. That reason was the curse; yes the logic wasn't factual but the idea was based on fantasy. Here, Elliot and Rossio wrote in Blackbeard and his crew with invulnerability without giving a proper understanding. What would Blackbeard's henchmen need the fountain of youth for if they can get stabbed and still live? Another character trait that isn't elaborated on is the mermaid mythology. When a mermaid touches dry land, why does their tale disappear forming legs and when they touch the ocean their tale returns? Perhaps there's a rule to this but nothing was said in the film and doing a little outside research didn't shed light on much either. So was it just made up?

The other issue the story suffers from is absence of clarity on its previous cast members. The only returning main supporting cast member from the past trilogy is Gibbs (Kevin McNally). There was a clear ending for Elizabeth and Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) but everyone else rather just vanished. What happened to the crew Gibbs worked with? It's not like the writers needed to film a scene explaining what happened but a transparent justification is all. There is a scene which involves the Black Pearl and where it ended up but does that mean the previous crew is there too? Nothing's said about it. Gratefully not much else has changed. Although directed by Rob Marshall this time, he's still able to keep the film moving. The pacing is still even with no lagging in between. The special effects remain well mixed with its live-action counterparts. The only element some audiences may find less of is the action sequences, which still are energetic but is more sparse than usual (it could be me). This could also be because of the toning down in scale prior to the last entry.

Sam Claflin & Astrid Bergès-Frisbey
The main actors to this story also continue to entertain. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow remains unchanged which is totally fine because he is what made Sparrow. Kevin McNally as Gibbs and Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa also remain the same, which is great. The new additions are acceptable too. The best addition is Ian McShane as Blackbeard. McShane's menacing presence feels very close to that of Davy Jones (not as dangerous personally, but just as threatening). Penélope Cruz as Angelica performed decently too and her chemistry with Johnny Depp was commendable. The last two additions belong to Sam Claflin (a missionary) and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (a mermaid). The relationship between these two actors is predictable but alright in most regards because with Elizabeth and Will Turner out, there kind of needed to be romance somewhere. The cinematography is again headed by Dariusz Wolski who hasn't disappointed yet in this series; with beautiful wide screen shots of tropical scenery. Enough said. Hans Zimmer also returns to score the music and also retains the main theme for Sparrow while including new themes such that belongs to Angelica, Blackbeard and the mermaids. It's still enjoyable, just slowly losing its grip.

The production quality of special effects, music, action, camerawork and talented main cast all continue to do the work that is required to keep this franchise afloat. Unfortunately, the screenwriters are beginning to get clumsy in their storytelling by not explaining a number of character traits, mythology to certain creatures and leaving out information of what happened to prior characters.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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