Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Pirates are back, again

Well, I caught Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Pirates 4) last night. I saw a 2D screening, because I'm of the rapidly growing opinion that 3D is simply a waste of money, and I can't think of any scenes that would be significantly improved by the technology. Now, I was looking forward to seeing this movie, and I really wasn't disappointed, but I think I can summarize my opinion of Pirates 4 this way: It is easily the second best Pirates of the Caribbean movie. That said, Dead Man's Chest & At World's End left the bar for the series lying on the ground, so this movie could make it over that in a drunken stupor. And it's not even that bad. If you were a fan of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in the first three, then you'll be perfectly happy with this. Actually, I think Geoffrey Rush's Captain Barbossa has gotten better. On the other hand, if you were a Orlando Bloom/Keira Knightley fan, you're out of luck, because if you haven't heard by now, they aren't back for this.

I'm currently ranking Pirates 4 above Sucker Punch, making it my number #2 film for this year, though I'll have to see how I feel about it after some time has passed. Basic rule of thumb, if a few months from now, I keep forgetting about it, it'll drop down a few places.

Very minor spoilers will follow, but nothing you probably didn't learn from the trailer. Oh yeah, and there's a scene after the credits.
Anyway, as mentioned already, Pirates 4 cuts out Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, which is fine enough by me, but it also basically cuts The Black Pearl, and I find that Not Awesome. In my opinion, one of the only strong points of the other Pirates sequels was some of the navel battles, and this film has nothing in that department. Chases though London are fun and all, but this isn't just a Johnny Depp movie, it's a pirate movie. They have pirate ships. A scene (shown in the trailer) establishes that Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, is awesome as only a pirate ship with flamethrowers can be. And then it doesn't get used in any significant way.

For new characters, we get the pirate captain Blackbeard and his daughter Angelica, played, in a first rate bit of casting, by Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz. Unfortunately, both roles are underdeveloped at best. Maybe it's just an overdose of pirate captains, but McShane's Blackbeard is never given anything all that great to do, certainly nothing that measures up to Barbossa from the first movie or Davy Jones from the sequels. Oh, he has zombies on his crew and some strange voodoo powers, but the filmmakers don't use it well, so like his ship, it just becomes disappointing.

The major supernatural addition for this film (because apparently someone at Disney thinks the franchise depends on that element) is mermaids, and if you're like me, they are probably enough reason for you to see this movie. The main mermaid scene may be the film's best, and if I were a character in that scene I would have died so fast it's not even... well actually it would be funny. There's a principle mermaid character, Syrena, and a Christian missionary named Philip, who's kind of a low-budget version of Orlando Bloom. And here's a poster that shows the general direction of their storyline.

I think the main problem I had with the film was that as fun as it could be at times, it was so completely predictable, and the very few things I wasn't expecting were just disappointing, like not getting showdowns between The Queen Anne's Revenge and the Spanish Armada or much of anything with the zombies. Still, I had fun, and I recommend this for Pirates fans. It does run a little long, and I recommend 2D, but if you've been waiting for the return of Jack... excuse me, Captain Jack Sparrow, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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