I know a lot of people who don’t really care for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as a whole. They thought the first one was fun and the 2nd and 3rd ones were convoluted pieces of crap. Therefore, I had a hard time finding someone who would see #4 with me. Luckily I have an awesome Mom who just happened to be visiting this weekend. We both like the films for the most part (although I take issue with parts of At Worlds End). I guess I’m just a sucker for action adventure.
On Stranger Tides is based on a novel of the same name by Tim Powers. It’s appropriately named since it is, well, a bit strange. Power’s novel prominently features voodoo, something that Disney opted to keep and force (not always successfully) into the world of Pirates of the Caribbean.
I’m sure you know the basic plot, that everyone is searching for the legendary fountain of youth. It’s not really clear why everyone (especially Captain Jack Sparrow) is trying to find it. For Blackbeard (Ian McShane), it’s because he’s heard a prophecy about his death and he’s trying to escape his fate. Everyone else wants to find it for no apparent reason. We find out later why Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the Spanish are looking for it but for Jack, it seems to just be something to do.
As for the fountain, for a secret supposedly taken to the grave by Ponce de Leon, a whole lot of people seem to know all about it. Not just it, but the rather complicated ritual you need to go through to drink from it. By the by, I’ve been to St. Augustine, Florida (PdL was supposedly the first European to set foot in Florida) so I know for a fact that Ponce died and is buried in Cuba and was not left to mummify in a ship perched up on a rock. But whatever, I’m willing to suspend belief a little.
Fun fact: Ponce de Leon wasn’t looking for the fountain of youth to give him long life…nope, he was more concerned about it curing his impotence (how is one supposed to rape and brutalize the natives if he can’t get it up, right?)
The ritual requires a mermaid’s tear which requires capturing a mermaid which requires sacrificing a whole lot of minions since mermaids apparently cross-bred with vampires somewhere along the line. They’re hot and they sing but Ariel they most certainly are not. My mom was a little disappointed by the viciousness of the mermaids and I can see why. As the daughter of a sailor, I learned that mermaids are not unlike the sirens of Greek mythology. They hypnotize sailors with their beautiful singing and the entranced sailors would walk or dive off of the ship in order to get to them, unfortunately drowning in the process. Or the sailors are nabbed by mermaids who forget that humans can’t breathe underwater and accidentally drown them while trying to show them their sweet underwater digs. Personally, if the mermaids of my youth had been more like these gals, I would have pretended to be one more often. There was a certain degree of “girl power” to these half mermaid-half vampire ladies…at least until one actually got captured and needed to be rescued by a big strong man. Then the whole “girl power” message kind of went right out the window.
Ah well…at least I still had a strong woman in Penelope Cruz. She can fight! She can seduce! She can command a ship! The only thing I didn’t really care for was her borderline creepy obsession with her Dad. Speaking of which…Ian McShane was solid as Blackbeard thanks to his icy eyes. I couldn’t buy into him being a master of black magic but I got a kick out of seeing him in a non-western setting. Geoffrey Rush could read the phone book and make it interesting. His frenemy relationship with Jack was in full swing. Sadly, the person who felt most out of place was Jack and I think it’s because they tried to force the character into Jack Shandy’s role in the book. Despite Johnny Depp’s best efforts, the two characters just don’t really mesh. I missed most of the crew members from the Black Pearl, although my favorite of them, Gibbs (Kevin McNally) was there. I was uber excited to see Keith Richards again as Jack’s Daddy but was sorely disappointed by his wooden performance. This is the guy that Depp based Jack’s zaniness on after all.
In the end, it was a fun and entertaining movie but not one that I necessarily need to see again.
2.5 out of 5 sci-fives