I gotta admit, I don't even remember how the hell the third Pirates movie ended. It was so bad I think I've blocked it from my memory. Was there a giant crab and upside-down sailboats? I think I remember now and if memory serves me right it ended with them wrapping up the freakin' series! But yet, here we are again.
This time we are back in the Caribbean with our favorite pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow, which earned Johnny Depp an Oscar nomination. Besides the return of Captain Barrbosa played by Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech, Shakespeare in Love), it's an entirely new cast of unfamiliar faces playing all new characters we've never seen or heard of before. Found in these newbies are Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Blow) as a former lover of Sparrow's and Ian McShane (HBO's Deadwood, Kung Fu Panda) as the infamous Blackbeard. All together they are searching for The Fountain of Youth.
The plot is actually a lot more complex than that and there lies one of the biggest problems this series has had. The first Pirates of the Caribbean was the king of the summer it came out. It surpassed every expectation that people had and launched an entire generation of women who had a new sex symbol to obsess over. But with each film, it got worse and worse. More characters were added. The stories got more convoluted and strange. This became the progression of the series leading to a more and more disappointing outcome. Yet because the original one was so good, we still await the latest installment and hope it's back to the way it was. Well, it isn't. In fact, if anything, it keeps up the tradition of being just as disappointing as the last or even more so.
The director of the first three films has departed and left it in the hands of Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine), who does a fine job of not only keeping up the rich detail and gritty tone from the series but also adding in 3D to make some of the scenes more thrilling than they otherwise would be. One such scene is the crew battling mermaids who are actually vicious man-eaters in this movie. This was the climax of the movie for me since everything leading to it was a slow, lackluster build and everything after it was a confusing mess. If the mermaid scene was a short film though, I would have enjoyed it.
Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly were smart to not be in this and I understand why Depp made Disney pay him GOBS of money to don the pirates rags one more time. It's because the script is crap. Characters are presented as important but aren't. Motives for finding the Fountain of Youth are changed or forgotten. The action is yawnable at best. It's just not the Pirates we fell in love. I hate to say it, but a pirates life is no longer for me.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-