When I heard the rumors that they were going to make Pirates of the Caribbean 4, I was going to roll up my eyes, and vent some of my frustrations with highly caustic and sarcastic remarks. Then I found out who was cast in the film. More importantly, I found out who WASN’T cast. Orlando Bloom & Keira Knightly weren’t listed. A glimmer of hope lit up the dark recesses of my mind. Could it be the producers of Pirates of the Caribbean series finally realized who the real lynch pin of the series was? And that this time they were going to actually focus on Jack? No way! Then I saw the trailer, and my hopes were proven true! This time it looked GOOD!! So, I gladly went to see the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film: On Stranger Tides. When I walked out of theaters after the end of the film, I felt fully vindicated. This was the movie that should have followed Curse of The Black Pearl.
On Stranger Tides picks up a little bit after At World’s End with some familiar faces. Obviously there’s Jack who has been trying to get to the Fountain of Youth with no success. Also returning is Hector Barbossa, only he seems to no longer be a pirate, but is now gainfully employed as a captain of the royal navy! Rumors start spreading in London that Jack Sparrow is looking to hire a crew to go find the Fountain of Youth. This is of great interest to a lot of people, including Jack himself, who had no idea this was going on. After being informed of this by Mr Gibbs (the last returning Pirates vet), Jack decides to look into what’s going on in his name… and events unfold from there.
Let’s get back to the cast, specifically the two new members of the team. And what great choices they were!! First we have Ian McShane as Blackbeard. Now, as the new bad ass pirate in the series, McShane had his work cut out for him, having to live up to both Barbossa AND Davy Jones (who was a good villain, just in a really bad set of movies). But McShane came through with FLYING colors! There hasn’t been a creepier pirate on film yet.
In his portrayal of Blackbeard, McShane brought an entirely different kind of menace to the Pirates series. Instead of going with the standard loud and obnoxious route for evil pirates, McShane infused Blackbeard with a type of cold, calm brutality that has all the more powerful an impact because of the detached, almost serene manner in which he carries out his actions. There isn’t any yelling or overt aggression. Blackbeard threatens and kills in the same way he would order lunch. And while he enjoys his lunch, his aloofness gives him the air of a man on a mission. No matter what happens, Blackbeard is going to get what he wants done. Period. And this style of behavior plays very well not only against Sparrow’s drunken chaos but also against Barbossa’s fiery intensity. The interactions between the three of them were really cool to watch.
The second addition is Penelope Cruz as Angelica, Blackbeard’s daughter. Casting Ms. Cruz was brilliant because she has the capacity to keep up with the level of energy which Depp gives to Jack Sparrow. From the moment she comes on screen, she plays Angelica in perfect complement to Jack. It’s like watching a perfectly choreographed dance. I’ve always said that watching two masters at work is always interesting. Watching Cruz & Depp bait and counter each other proves my point.
As for the direction & writing, they did exactly what they needed to in order to make the film work. They brought the story back to basics, getting rid of any unnecessary complications, while also pushing deeper into the madness behind the character’s methods, especially with Capt. Jack Sparrow. You can literally see hints of the planning Jack does in certain scenes, but you never get enough to fully predict what is going to happen next. They also got rid of the excessive comedy in this film. There are funny moments, but that’s all they are: moments; not entire segments of the film. And the director, Rob Marshall, really ordered the movie well. There wasn’t a single point in the film where the story dragged. There was always something of interest going on, but never so much that you’d get lost or overwhelmed. Marshall’s control of the movie was masterful.
In the end, all I can really say is if you liked the first Pirates movie, you’ll really enjoy On Stranger Tides. It’s Pirates of the Caribbean back to form. Moreover, it was a good time and I highly recommend it.