Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane
Directed by: Rob Marshall

            In 1957, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride opened at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. In 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, based on the ride and expected to be a flop, brought the big swashbuckling pirate movie back in a big way. And now, Captain Jack is back for a fourth voyage in this movie, based on the novel “On Stranger Tides” by Tim Powers.

            In search of the fabled Fountain of Youth, Captain Jack has to battle the treacherous pirate Blackbeard and encounters his daughter, the beautiful Angelica, with whom he had a fling many years ago. Racing them to the Fountain are Jack’s old rival Barbossa, now in the employ of the King, and the Spaniards.

            For a franchise that was almost swallowed up by its ambitious scope and convoluted plot, On Stranger Tides is a triumphant return to form. This is a sequel in the best sense of the word: carrying on yet starting anew. The story is well-told and the pacing is swift. Everything we loved about the first film is back stronger than ever: the wonderful period atmosphere, the swordfights, chases and naval battles, and, of course, Captain Jack.

            Johnny Depp returns to his defining role like wearing a glove, every amusing mannerism, every witticism, delivered with strong craftsmanship and lithe energy. He’s also armed with some great lines by screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot. Now that the “Will and Elizabeth” story arc from the first three movies has wrapped, attention has returned square to Sparrow, and Depp never once disappoints.

While Depp certainly gets the lion’s share of the limelight, he never hogs it. The new players fit in just right among familiar characters. Cruz and Depp share crackling chemistry, the beautiful and cunning Angelica the only one to ever come close to beating Sparrow at his own game. Ian McShane makes for a very scary Blackbeard, a worthy adversary to Sparrow. Sam Claflin as missionary Philip Swift and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as the mermaid he falls in love with work hard to keep up with the rest of the cast and fare well too.

The old-fashioned spirit of adventure missing from many modern films is alive and well in the fourth Pirates outing. This is a supremely enjoyable ride (almost as much as the source material), filled from start to finish with the same energy that flowed through the veins of the first film.

SUMMARY: Fun in the right places, thrilling in the right places, scary in the right places and humorous in the right places, this is one ship everyone should hop aboard. Arrrrrr!



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