REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Personally, I had little interest in seeing the fourth installment to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The trailers were uninspiring, and did not promise more than just another pirate movie. However, when my two teenagers pleaded with me to attend the midnight premiere, what could I say?

As POTC begins we learn from Josh McGibs that Sparrow is in town: "I hear a rumor, Jack Sparrow was in London, lookin' for a crew, hell bent to find the Fountain of Youth." To quote Depp in one of his trailers, "There be varied and substantial dangers along the way, including, but not limited to, zombies, cut throats, mermaids..." Add to this, Barbosa, haschanged sides and is now working for the Crown. OK, sounds intriguing - I'm in.
Rush as Barbossa, "Are we not the King's men!"
The movie wasn't more than a few minutes along when it hit me that there was something distinct about the direction On Stranger Tides was taking. It felt fresh and light. Not only were we introduced to a slew of memorable characters, the two most prominent co-stars, Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa, were as colorful and invigorating as ever, if not more so. 
The thought kept occurring to me that Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush must have come to a mutual accord to infuse new life into their respective roles so they might later tout convincingly they did not phone-it-in. I have come to expect this from Rush, but Depp? For a role he could effortless assume in his sleep, Depp brought new, unabandoned daredeviltry to his swashbuckling bearing.

A voyage is quickly embarked upon, which, as you might have imagined, is anything but "Steady as she goes." However, besides the calculable set up, this is about the only element of POTC that is predictable. 

Ian McShane as Blackbird. I cannot imagine
a better fact or demeanor for the role.
Along with the new storyline, POTC also offers us a whole new cast of characters. Chief of which is the most villainous of all pirates, Blackbeard. And who better to play the role than the nastiest in Brit thrillers, none other than Ian McShane. As many times as Blackbeard's face filled the screen, I never once got tired of the closeups.

Though I am not particularly fond of Penelope Cruz, she gave a wonderful performance as the quick witted and seductive pirate, Angelica. We soon discover a past existed between her and Jack. There's also a surprise as to whose daughter she is. No spoilers here.

Besides a host of new minor characters, POTC also offers the most beautiful mermaids imaginable and zombies that are out of this world. Though the zombies are brought aboard for the spook factor, the mermaids are an integral part of the story. 

There's also a love story brewing between Philip (Sam Claflin), the handsome missionary/Christian, and a lovely mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). Though a captive on Blackbeard's ship, Philip nonetheless maintains his faith and frequently risks being torn asunder for his outspoken but merciful admonitions. His character is the first I can recall where the Christian plays the role of sanity, reason and compassion, as well as being the decidedly romantic figure. However, I was confused with what transpires between him and the mermaid and wonder if their final scene could have been better told. 

Sparrow and his crew spend most of the movie tramping through lush jungles (Hawaii) looking for the Fountain of Youth.  Along the way they encounter a host of challenges and fireballs... They also discover a missing explorer and ultimately their prize. However, what becomes of their find is surprising and wholly satisfying.

Though the film is replete with tension breaks and one-liners, one of the audience's favorites (and mine) is delivered by Keith Richards when his son, Sparrow, asks him if he's ever been to the Fountain of Youth: "Does this face look like it's been to the Fountain of Youth?" 

Is the latest Pirates of the Caribbean a must see? No. However, if you're looking for an exhilarating romp through verdant jungles, beastly zombies, blood curdling mermaids and loads of laughs, I think Pirates of the Caribbean just might be in order. I could not have asked for anything more entertaining. And after all, is this not why we go to the movies? I give it a 5 Lens Review!

5 Lens Review

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