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pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides-pirates-of-the-caribbean-4-on-stranger-tides-film-movieMy main question after watch the new Pirates movie is, If this was the first one of the series would we have had a two, three and four? I don’t think so. It’s a big splashy epic, but lacks the fun and Johnny’s joie de vivre of the original. It feels like Disney has plundered the “PotC” treasure chest one too many times.

At the behest of King George, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), a one-time pirate now turned privateer, is searching for the fabled Fountain of Youth. His job is to claim it for England before the Spanish armada gets there. Meanwhile, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is shanghaied to work on board a ship run by the evil Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Jack’s old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz). They’re after the fountain too, but first must fight off man hungry mermaids.

The “PotC” movies have never made a great deal of sense—there’s more plot twists and turns that there are lines on co-star Keith Richard’s face—but they’ve always had a forward momentum based on Depp’s charm and some cool special effects. “On Stranger Tides” doesn’t ever feel like it really gets up and running. The first hour is spent setting up the second hour, so expect lots of exposition broken up by the kind of action scenes that used to be the trademark of the series.

Now, in the hands of director Rob Marshall, who takes over from Gore Verbinski, the action sequences are as well choreographed as you might expect from the man who made “Chicago”  and “Nine,” but as as exciting as you would expect action sequences made by a man who specializes in musicals to be. Again, not surprisingly, he uses music effectively, particularly in the first big set piece as the king’s guards chase Sparrow through the palace and into the streets of London, but despite the booming soundtrack the visuals fall flat. I liked the mermaids and think their attack sequence is the most exciting thing in the movie, but I may be wrong simply because the movie is so dark I may have missed something.

Also on the flat side is Depp. Maybe playing the same character four times in eight years has taken some of the swash out of his buckle, or perhaps the limitations of Captain Jack are becoming apparent. Either way he’s no longer the most interesting character in the “PotC” universe. Once again Rush steps up and keeps Barbossa interesting, but the best character of the bunch is McShane’s nasty Blackbeard. He mad, bad and dangerous to know, and he adds some much needed spark to the second half of the movie.

“PotC: On Stranger Tides” has all the elements we want from the franchise—supernatural creatures, swashbuckling and swaggering Depp—and less of what we don’t want—Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley and their convoluted love story have been thrown overboard—but isn’t exciting enough to shiver anyone’s timbers.

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