When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past, he’s not sure if it’s love—or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard, Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.
There’s an undeniable buzz of excitement at the thought of Captain Jack Sparrow returning for yet another swashbuckling adventure, simultaneously mixed with a feeling of intrepidation that the Sparrow charm might fail to translate this time around, especially after a four-year break.
Sparrow is still a character with a lot of mileage, and thankfully, Johnny Depp doesn’t divert from the original script. Disappointingly, though, the journey to yet another ‘eternal gift’ of some description still ends up in a cave – and a predictable swordfight that takes a long while getting there.
This time, Jack (Depp) is on the quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that his old flame, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), her feared pirate father, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and Jack’s old adversary Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are all after the same prize. Who will get there first, though hindered by some dazzling but vicious mermaids? A clash of swords and a splash of magic will decide.
As is the case with many of the trumpeted ‘3D’ offerings of late, even this film shot using 3D cameras still falls short of providing the much-longed-for 3D wows and gasps. Admittedly, there’s the odd sword that threatens to pierce you between the eyes, but the rest is fairly vapid.
What the film-makers appear to have done in a way to divert your attention is pile set-piece onto set-piece, so the majority of the film is awash with optically-unforgiving action that doesn’t allow you the opportunity to seriously register everything that happens in a scene. Indeed, Rob Marshall’s love affair with action sequences begins with a chase through old London town, just so as to set up the return of Barbossa. It’s a shame about the lack of real 3D, especially with the palm-tree acrobatics that could have been more awe-inspiring, but were still fun, nevertheless – thanks to Sparrow’s big personality.
The fondness for the original characters has not lessened, with Depp and Rush firmly in control and as entertaining as the first time around. Cruz and McShane join the cast this time. Cruz sparks and fizzles, but never really sets the screen alight as anticipated; however annoying Keira Knightley was as the shrill Elizabeth Swan, she certainly will be more memorable than Cruz in this franchise. As for McShane, he fits his pirate boots brilliantly, with a mixture of playfulness and dangerous unpredictably as Blackbeard – a family-friendly version of his Sexy Beast days.
On Stranger Tides has some beautiful effects, especially with the mermaid sequences that sandwich one of the funniest, throwaway Sparrow comments of the film. These parts serve as the film’s love-story angle, what with the absence of Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, filled by the toned physique of Sam Claflin as clergyman Philip who is wooed and woos a mermaid called Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). But it’s a sub-, sub-plot that doesn’t have the dramatic passion of the Turner-Swan affair.
The running gags are still kept going, including who’s going to end up on the deserted island at the end, and like many films nowadays, stay a while, whilst the credits roll for an additional element. It’s still undecided whether this has any benefit to the following events, but it provides a devilish end chuckle.
As a guaranteed box office Top 5, Pirates 4 definitely sets itself up for another. We just can’t get enough of Sparrow himself, though there’s an immense sense of déjà vu and predictability to events throughout this latest film. Sparrow’s like a British institution now – bit like Sparrow Sr. (played by Keith Richards), an indulgent tradition we keep going, even though we can see what’s coming a mile off, without the aid of a compass. Savvy?