Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
On Stranger Tides was indeed a promising sequel – especially after those involved admitted they themselves were confused by the chaos of the previous two films, this seemed to stand a chance. Though my first seven words may seem a little daunting and you may wish to turn away, hold your horses there buddy, I‘ve got a bit to talk about. Because I think the Pirates films are to the point of listing pros and cons, I will do so in this case (and personally, I’m feeling rather lazy at the moment). So let’s get down to brass tacks (warning, below there be spoilers):
The members of the original cast which they decided to keep, I loved. Okay, Capt. Jack doesn’t change much, but I was a fan of the return and increased badassery of Capt. Barbossa, and felt that he had almost become some sort of man-hunting Ahab (now that I think of it, since both Moby Dick and Blackbeard are depicted as nothing but pure evil, I’m not too far off). On another note, I’ll admit that I was one who was absolutely thrilled that Kiera and Orlando wasn’t going to show up in this one (finally Bruckheimer delivered me from their garishness). Oh hey Keith, nice seeing you again.
Without that Knightley girl in the way it was about time they gave Jack Angelica, a decent counterpart. At first I was a little hazy about Penelope Cruz, but I kinda came to like her: she had personality and motive, though a tad one-note sometimes she was still a refreshing face.
Blackbeard/Queen Anne’s Revenge
Holy crap Blackbeard. This guy. I think my favorite aspect of the character is that he is more of a legend than a man, if that makes any sense: when we first meet him, his crew is hushed, and he walks through a cloud of smoke, presumably from his smoldering beard; revealed is an ever-the-rough-hewed Ian McShane (awesome choice there), speaking few words but carrying a great presence. Though he does go to do a few cool things, I think there needed to be more ruthlessness – at the same time we kind of caught him during a transitional period, so…well…sucks to be us I guess.
I’m not sure if this is a cop-out or not, but I think the better part of Blackbeard was his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. He controls this thing, like it’s nothing…well, thanks to magic or something- that was never explained, really. But whatever, two words: FIRE CANNON. And his head crew’s made up of zombies. Not bad.
Hate me if you must, but I’m a fan of this more mythological approach with the story – they’ve already had curses and skellingtons and stuff, why not the Fountain of Youth and mermaids to boot? I’d still like to know why the boat was all supernatural, but whatever, the mermaids were cool. (They fricken took down a ship!)
Alright, I give props for including the Spaniards and their pursuit of the Fountain as well – neat little tidbit. But! Most of the stuff involving them was just kinda tossed in the mix almost irresponsibly: the movie starts and nearly ends with them, and nonchalantly reminds us that they’re still around without really posing an actual threat. I’ll get to King George in a sec.
I was so confused by the amount of spirituality thrust into this movie. First there’s the good missionary, Philip Swift (newcomer Sam Clafin), who preaches for the goodness of all and salvation of lost souls – and then there’s Angelica, constantly worried for the salvation of Blackbeard. Why is this important? There are vague connections to Angelica’s life in the convent…and Blackbeard is also seeking an escape from death – so okay, that’s understandable but overall unnecessary for the story. What’s with Philip then? He doesn’t contribute much to the Angelica/Blackbeard relationship other than protest every once in a while – more on him in a bit. But then the movie flips it around when the Spaniards want to destroy the Fountain in the name of God. Wat? Is Disney actually making a statement exposing the duality of Christianity/Catholicism? I don’t get it – who are we rooting for? What is best for man – eternal life or a righteous death? Why am I pondering this during a Pirates movie?
By “Secondary Characters” I am specifically referring to Philip and his scaly love interest, Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). Personally, I feel that we do not get enough time for any real romantic connection with this one. We go from him caring for her well-being, solely because she is “one of God’s creatures,” and I guess because they’re both pretty they must have an instant relationship. This slopped together romance wasn’t only unbelievable, but also entirely unnecessary. I really don’t think the story would be any different without them – the writers would just have to come up with a more creative way to get a mermaid’s tears (even though I did think what they used was fairly clever, I’d still like to see what else they could do). And then after all we get, we’re probably never going to see them again – but I guess I shouldn’t speak to soon.
Camp and Gimmicks
Probably since the unveiling of Capt. Jack onward marks the turn for the campy (mind you this is probably less than five minutes in…and sadly expected for one of these movies), namely when he meets King George (Richard Griffiths). This scene was way too overdone, which of course lead to a wonderful fluff-filled escape, but seriously, that thumbs-up was waaaaay too much. If it wasn’t for that, there may have been the right amount of fluff. Then later there’s just all sorts of pointless bickering and re-hashed jokes of sorts – again, I guess that’s kind of expected now. And of course there are gimmicky lines here and there, but I will credit this one for a decent selection of child-friendly innuendo. What an oxymoron.
Plot-holes and Poor Writing
Aye carumba, what were they thinking? Things I do not understand:
1. How did Syrena know where the chalices went and why did she bother giving them to Jack at that very moment?
2. Why did Jack maroon Angelica and why did she stay? She could’ve easily gotten into his boat?
3. Wait, how did Blackbeard get all mystical and shrink the ships again? (That was kinda neat though.)
4. Why did the hype put so much emphasis on the zombies? There was a serious lack of undead.
5. How was Philip granted life with Syrena? Why was it not explained? What is this sorcery!? Oh yeah, it’s because the plot said so.
6. Lastly, with the voodoo doll at the end, I call serious bullshit.
Despite the above, I do not feel as if all is lost. I mean, this was a decent movie, and pretty entertaining. On Stranger Tides is a vast improvement from the last couple…but still left room for more.
Final Grade: C-
There hasn’t been such a heated bestiality debate since Bella and Jacob.