look serif;”>Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sick serif;”>sends Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow reluctantly rattling off on another, diagnosis vaguely supernatural high-seas adventure. This time Jack is setting forth in search of the Fountain of Youth and all the usual Pirates staples appear; ghostly ships loom out of the mist, Jack barely escapes execution in a wildly over-the-top action sequence, people still forget to address him as “Captain” and the annoying monkey is still annoying. The difference between On Stranger Tides and the previous incarnations of the Pirates franchise is that Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom are gone and have taken the overly sentimental romantic plots with them. This frees the film up and allows for a shorter, action-packed, lighter film. Gone too is Gore Verbinski who directed the first three films with Rob Marshall at the helm instead.
On Stranger Tides is a vehicle for Depp and his swaggering Keith Richards impression (and confusingly Richards pops up in a cameo doing his best Johnny Depp impression) and the film is free of the baggage previous plots have brought. The film is a constant stream of gun-fire explosions and swashbuckling swordfights and throughout Depp leaps from scene to scene, carrying the film with his wry smiles and cocky one-liners. Despite this there is a certain staleness to Depp’s Captain Jack which, after four films, is to be expected and it is difficult to see where the character can take the franchise in the future. To further develop the character would be to ruin Captain Jack’s mystery yet there is only so far this character can take us before becoming a parody.
The film also sees Geoffrey Rush return to his role of the pirate, Captain Barbossa and it is this performance that truly saves On Stranger Tides. Rush is light and humorous and fills the sparse plot with charm and wit. Rush and Depp together make a wonderful pair, not quite friends and not quite enemies, butting heads at every chance and almost transforming the film into a buddy movie. The moments when they are together highlight the triumph the film could have become if only there had been more opportunity for their crackling chemistry to develop. Rush once again proves that comedy is not beyond him and he truly is a worthy character actor.
With the addition of Ian McShane as Captain Blackbeard there are now so many pirate Captains staggering around the film in inch-thick eyeliner that it is a delight to when Penelope Crus pops up as Jack’s former flame Angelica Teach. Crus has proven herself recently in a string of wonderful performances, particularly in director Pedro Almodovar’s Volver and initially it seems that she has been offered a chance to shine here. Her character (literally) turns up as a female Captain Jack which suggests that she will parade the same charm as her male counterpoint. However it soon becomes clear Teach is nothing more than a wooden stereotype and does not afford Crus the same opportunities as Depp and Rush. Once again Hollywood seems unable to offer the same calibre of roles to women as European films have in recent years.
Rob Marshall utilises his skill as a musical director (he previously directed musicals Chicago and Nine) to ensure the film flows quickly and the fight scenes are smoothly choreographed. With the shortest running time of the series and the simplicity of the plot Tides is the most light-hearted, fast-paced and fun film the Pirates films have seen since Curse of the Black Pearl. It still has many faults but its seems as though the film franchise may have been set back on course,
DVD extras include a blooper reel, some Lego shorts and an annoying feature in which Timon and Pumbaa of Lion King fame try to flog 3D Blu Ray to children. Presenting this an extra on a newly bought DVD seems manipulative and unethical.
Aifric Ní Ruairc