Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush
Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Sam Claflin
Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Richard Griffiths
Given how excruciatingly terrible the two last installments of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga had been, it was perhaps reasonable to expect that a fourth chapter would only be created in order to improve the series. This wasn't the case. On Stranger Tides in fact might be the worst of them all and if you've seen the other ones, you understand this is saying a lot.
Johnny Depp is back to play Captain Jack Sparrow, by this point however he seems to have become so uninterested in the character that he plays him on autopilot. Sparrow still delivers witty lines and acts like he's drunk; however by now his quirks have just become preposterous and fail to add shades to this character.
This time around Sparrow gets dragged into an expedition to find the Fountain of Youth that Ponce de León had set out to find two centuries before. Sparrow's expedition is led by the evil Blackbeard (McShane) and his newfound daughter Angelica (Cruz) who also happens to be Jack's former flame.
Of course things won't be just that easy for Sparrow and crew, given that two other teams have set out to find the fountain. One of them is led by Sparrow's perpetual enemy Hector Barbossa (Rush), the other by Spanish conquistadors. Somewhere within the movie there are inklings of a political statement meant to have been suggested with these multicultural races towards advancement.
This might be looking too much into the film's flawed screenplay though, given that so little happens over such a long time that your mind might wander and try to find things to rescue about this production.
Many questions might arise, like: why does such an expensive film feel so cheap at every turn? The visual effects fail to impress and at moments look almost dated. What are actors like McShane, Rush, Depp and Cruz doing in such a film?
Rush as usual injects Barbossa with a manic wickedness, while McShane is given so little to do and it's such a shame given his talent for delivering villains. Cruz remains enjoyable throughout the movie and is perhaps the only cast member who never seems to get bored by the ridiculous levels the plot reaches. She somehow seems to be having fun and in one of her last scenes is even able to find something that feels like an emotional core of sorts.
The biggest enigma in the film though, might be why is it so dull? From the beginning, when it throws complexly choreographed sequences at us (one even contains a Judi Dench cameo!), everything feels like something we've seen a million times before and never really liked to begin with.
While the first installment in the series brilliantly exploited the film's amusement park origins, this one feels like a very long ride down an attraction someone forgot to make fun. How can something so big, be so little fun?
Despite the film's loudness, it's almost impossible not to drift while watching it. Perhaps director Marshall tried to see too much into these characters and situations? For there is not a single character who doesn't suggest a richer backstory than they deserve (something Angelica mentions about a convent might've been a better movie than this one...) and for all these comments about past stories we get truly ridiculous attempts at humanizing these people even more. Marshall then gives us a boorish love story between a missionary (Claflin) and a mermaid (Bergès-Frisbe). He's looking for faith, she's not one of "god's creatures" and before long we have even more winks about religion by way of the conquistadors who speak exactly three Spanish words in the film.
There's dozens of plot holes, setpieces that go on and on and on without any purpose and an overall disturbing feeling of coins falling into Disney's own treasure chest. Not even Cruz's own phenomenal chest makes this any better.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides drags for so long, giving so little that by its end you will wish you found the fountain of youth, if only to recover the hours you lost watching this.