In the latest swashbuckling venture by Disney, Captain Jack Sparrow is back to entertain us all with his camp swagger and nautical hi-jinks. The film’s plot was set up in the third movie, but to give Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides credit it doesn’t expressly try to be a sequel. It is not essential to know what happened in the last film. Still, it uses many of the same characters (sans Bloom and Knightley) but presents them in a new setting. The plot focuses on the search for the ‘fountain of youth’- a process the filmmakers obviously went through themselves, as the film features some new totty. To replace Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, and keep the cast looking young and fresh, Pirates offers a mermaid and a cleric, which is a little strange, but their presence will no doubt still be greatly appreciated. The storyline also features Blackbeard, a figure who was bound to crop up eventually when dealing with pirates. Indeed, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is aptly titled. The film delves into darker waters than is seen in the previous three films, as though in a moody, sullen stupor following rum drinking and revelry. The use of black magic and a half-hearted examination of religion are treated awkwardly, but perhaps were also part of the rum hangover. Have no fear, there wasn’t too much room for seriousness amongst the sword fights and sail hoisting. Any message that Disney may have been pointing to was obliterated by a flame-throwing pirate ship.
Strangely, Jack was often the voice of reason in the film. He hasn’t changed dramatically, but it is noticeable that the years are taking their toll on the once jubilant Jack Sparrow. Maybe he is just getting a bit old, perhaps a bit weary. In the film he does deliver some cracking one-liners but you almost hope for Johnny Depp’s sake that they don’t make another. Penelope Cruz’s appearance in the film will split opinion as she will either be seen arbitrary celebrity eye-candy or a worthy character. To give her the benefit of the doubt, she makes a great pirate. Judi Dench, however, has to be credited with perhaps the greatest cameo of her career, as a noblewoman who falls under Jack’s charms.
In regards to the use of 3D, you could see the film in 2D without feeling you missed too much. Even as an advocate for 3D cinema I will admit that PotC 4 didn’t break any boundaries. But this you would expect with the fourth film of a well known and evidently hardy franchise. ‘You haven’t changed’ says Penelope Cruz’s character to Captain Jack – and that’s true to some extent. More importantly, what is made clear is that he didn’t need to.