The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been built upon a tremendous first film, in which Johnny Deep’s quirky interpretation of Captain Jack Sparrow earned him an Oscar nomination. The newest addition to the series, an attempted reboot of Jack' tale, triumphs in certain aspects of restarting the series, but it also feels like the formula that made these movies has not really been altered and it's starting to get a little old.
On Stranger Tides starts with Jack's capture in London. He escapes from the presence of the King and tries to rescue Gibbs – his trusty first mate – but fails. Captain Jack heads to a bar which rumors say he will be at to collect a crew. He meets Angelica (Penelope Cruz, Vanilla Sky), a former flame posing as him to recruit a crew for her alleged father Blackbeard (Ian McShane, Death Race), the pirate all pirates fear.
Once on Blackbeard's ship they set sail for the fountain of youth. Chased by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, The Kings Speech), who is now under hire from the King of England, and a Spanish fleet sent on the orders of their King. The race to the fountain also includes retrieving a mermaid for her tears, collecting two chalices from a ship stuck on the edge of a cliff, and finding the entrance to the fountain. The plot feels a little strange for a Pirates movie, but it works in the fact that it's an old story, and it's definitely been toned down from the last feature.
Some of the changes are welcomed to the new edition of this beloved series. The absence of Will and Elizabeth is not really noticed as Johnny Depp really holds his on screen. The revamped franchise definitely improved on At World’s End in certain ways, this movie is way more toned down in terms of crazy actions scenes. The mermaids are also a cool new addition to the franchise, beautiful above water but ferocious below, they’re known for seducing sailors and dragging them under the dark waters. New director Rob Marshall does a good job of calming down the franchise, but he relies too heavily on influences from the first film.
Several scenes seem to be referencing towards the first film too heavily. A key swordfight scene between Jack and Angelica looks oddly familiar to Jack’s fight with Will, and the Fountain of Youth looks oddly like the Ile de Muerta from the first movie. Ian McShane makes a good Blackbeard, but his character plays a small part and his lines are poorly written. The zombie sailors who work for Blackbeard are also a cool addition, but they’re too much like the undead pirates in the first movie, just not as cool. Penelope Cruz is a great actress, and she has chemistry with Depp on screen, but she doesn’t seem to fit in here.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides tries to be a fresh start to the series. Despite its entertainment value, I think that it’s failed in this sense. The new additions are either not explored to the degree I would have liked (Blackbeard and his zombie crew), or they feel too much like the first movie being cheaply redecorated (the Fountain of Youth set). The movie does improve on the last film in certain ways, but the characters lack motivation and the story is just no where near as original as the first Pirates film, which blew us all out of the water. This film is still very entertaining, Johnny Depp is of course great, but the movie doesn’t live up to the crazy expectations of the first few.