My 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.
SYNOPSIS: 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 (Geoffrey Rush) and Jack’s old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz). They’re after the fountain too, but first must fight off manhungry mermaids.
Richard: * 1/2
Mark: ** Richard Crouse: Mark, my main question after watching 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. What say you, matey?
Mark Breslin: Richard, I wasn’t even a fan of the original. And no franchise should exceed a trilogy unless the words “godfather” or “cheerleaders” are in the title. An appreciation of this movie is contingent upon how you feel about Johnny Depp and how much swordplay you can handle. I adore Depp’s brilliant characterization in the series, but really, the tricks are starting to show their age. And I didn’t like swashbuckling even when Douglas Fairbanks did it in 1932. Still, I thought this edition of Pirates was the best since the original, whatever that means.
RC: I don’t think this one has the spark of the others. It’s not as funny, Depp seems like he’s gone back to the Captain Jack treasure chest one too many times and the action scenes, despite the 3-D, don’t fly off the screen the way they have in the past. 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.
MB: Oh, those mermaids! Who knew they spoke in a Scandinavian accent? Yes, they are the most exciting thing in the movie, although I did enjoy Ian MacShane’s villainy. But despite the fountain of youth plot device, these Pirates are getting old. And you’re right about how dark the film is: I was straining to make out which pirate was which. Quick clue: Depp is the Pirate Who’s Had A Bit Of Work Done.
RC: Ha! Perhaps playing the same character four times in eight years is too much for Depp, or perhaps the limitations of Captain Jack are becoming apparent but he’s not as entertaining as before. Not that director Rob Marshall helps him. The action sequences are as well choreographed as you might expect from the man who made Chicago and Nine, but they are also as exciting as you would expect from a man who specializes in making musicals.
MB: I see what you’re getting at. For the next instalment, make it a musical complete with a chorus line of mermaids!
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides co-star Ian McShane suggests that Johnny Depp is “paid more than the national debt of most countries” to play the tipsy freebooter Captain Jack Sparrow. Depp may be the highest paid movie pirate to ever sail the seven seas, but he’s not the only celluloid sea dog.
Movie pirates were popular on the silent screen —they swashbuckled as early as 1908’s Treasure Island — but it wasn’t until Errol Flynn played the title role in 1935’s Captain Blood that pirates became screen staples.
“No one can beat Erroll Flynn,” says Under The Black Flag: The Romance & Reality Of Life Among The Pirates author David Cordingley. “He has the edge over all the other movie pirates.” Coming close is Robert Newton as Long John Silver in Treasure Island.
One of the best live action Disney films of the 1950s, it is the movie that originated the Cornish accent that has become the accepted pirate speak in dozens of movies to follow. For a sample check out the voice of The Simpsons’ Captain McAllister. It’s based on Newton’s pirate portrayal.
Less conventional is Walter Matthau’s take on Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red in Roman Polanski’s Pirates. The planned followup to the director’s massive hit Chinatown (it actually took 12 years to make it to the screen) was to have starred Jack Nicholson but, like the buccaneer he might have portrayed in the movie, the star was money hungry. According to the director, when he asked Nicholson exactly how much he wanted, the actor simply said, “I want more.” His replacement, Matthau, redefines grizzly in his depiction of Captain Red, but the film didn’t meet with good reviews.
“There hasn’t been a pirate movie in a long time,” wrote Roger Ebert, “and after Roman Polanski’s Pirates, there may not be another one for a very long time.”
What look at movie pirates would be complete without a mention of singing and dancing sea dogs? There are lots of pirate musicals but one of the best, and most overlooked, is The Pirate starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly.
With direction by Vincente Minnelli (father of Liza) and songs by Cole Porter, the story of a young girl in love with a man pretending to be a pirate earned an Oscar nomination for Original Music Score, but lost out to another Judy Garland musical, Easter Parade.