I thought it was only fair to let the dust settle on the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) before stumping up some hard-earned and sharing my thoughts. The primary reason for this was that I know, only too well, how bad fourth installments can be – Die Hard 4.0 (2007), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – and I was very concerned that director Rob Marshall (Nine (2009), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)) was going to undo all of Gore Verbinski‘s excellent work on parts one to three.
Thankfully, this has not proved to be the case. It’s fairly obvious that the franchise is approaching the nadir of its creative arc but, given that the latest installment has already taken some $700 million worldwide, it’s very likely that we can expect two more of these (after all, God save us, Die Hard number five is due for release next year).
But, so long as the cast, led of course by the inimitable Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush as Messrs Sparrow and Barbossa, can keep its head above water, as is by and large the case here, another two installments might not be so dreadful.
Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley do not feature this time around. Instead, we have Penélope Cruz as Captain Jack’s old flame Angelica Malon, who just happens to be the daughter of one Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and, of course, Barbossa’s back (if he hadn’t have been, that would have been it for this reviewer), with the motley crew this time after the legendary fountain of youth, as was once sought by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon.
Thankfully, writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are also still on board, and they have managed to successfully blend more fascinating elements from the mythology of the seas and piracy even if, perhaps, there is a noticeable absence of the darker elements that made the first three films so appealing. Depp, well, he’s Johnny Depp as Jack. While some may find his antics veering into the far reaches of camp from time to time, can you really complain when the most likeable aspect of the series (namely, that the cast are obviously having a whale of a time and it’s impossible not to be dragged along) has been preserved just fine by part four?
As is increasingly the case with cinema’s rejuvenated gimmick, the 3D doesn’t really bring anything new to proceedings apart from an occasional sense of deeper immersion in the adventure, but no worries – this is still worth a few of your pieces-of-eight.