Archive for Rob Marshall

Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The forth film in Disney’s ‘Pirates…’ franchise sees Captain Jack Sparrow embark on yet another swashbuckling adventure to find the Fountain
Of Youth.

I was looking forward to this chapter in the saga a lot more than after first hearing about the fact it was being made. My enthusiasm was stoked by noticing that it was going to be the shortest in the quadrilogy, a huge plus point as ‘At World’s End’ was the best part of 3 hours long…and a bit boring to boot. But mainly because the watery Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly were not to be brought back after their storylines were finished off in the previous film.

 Along for the ride this time round is Penélope Cruz as Angelica Malon playing the old flame of Jack, which is strange as she hasn’t been mentioned in the previous outings even though they apparently  loved each other, only for Jack to get cold feet and leave her at the altar.

Angelica appears to be the daughter of the infamous pirate Blackbeard, played brilliantly by Ian McShane, who has been warned that he will be killed by ‘the one-legged man’ and must find the Fountain Of Youth to grant him immortality before his impending death. The one-legged man –  in this case Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), is now in the employ of the King of England as a privateer in the Navy. He lost his leg by narrowly escaping during an attack on the Black Pearl by Blackbeard.

Also in pursuit of the Fountain are the Spanish, for no discernable reason other than that they are Catholic and feel the need to destroy this blasphemous pagan artefact, as only the Lord can grant immortality. And it gives some excuse to place Cruz in the female lead.

As usual there are a number of giant action sequences, though luckily it all seems to be kept under stricter control by Rob Marshall than the films by Gore Verbinski, who couldn’t direct this one as he was working on ‘Rango’, also starring the voice of Johnny Depp. There is a brilliant opening
escape scene after he frees Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from the stocks where he surfs on the top of carriages through the streets of London to escapes the army before being saved by his father, Captain Teague (Keith Richards), who is heavily featured in the trailer, but only appears here for a couple of minutes.

There are lots of sword fighting scenes too, which are well-paced and clear. Though it did seem that a lot of them were made specifically for 3D with swords being thrust into the camera (and Jack swings through trees on a rope confusing matters for his adversaries). I’m sure that it looked great in 3D, but I decided to view the film in 2D (the proper way to see a film). I was not alone. It seems that the greater public has started to finally tire of 3D;  the official figures show that more people have opted to see it in 2D so far. But this is a rant for another occasion.

The best action scene by far though is the mermaid scene, because for an extremely confusing ritual at the Fountain the tear of a mermaid is
required. To this end, Blackbeard uses some of his own crew as bait for the sirens who attract men for their own carnal pleasure before drowning them. Seeing a row boat full of men being picked off one by one by mermaids was a genuine spectacle.

And this is the problem with the continuing franchise: there are only so many times you can see an overblown action sequence or a multi-way sword fight or Johnny Depp pretend to be Keith Richards before it gets repetitive. Also how many extra elements can you squeeze out of an idea based on a boring ride at Disney Land? We’ve had swashbuckling adventure, dark arts, giant sea monsters, sword fights, galleons firing cannonballs through each other (in the third film we had both these last two points happening while in the vortex of a
whirlpool!) – and now mermaids. The films have also covered the myths of Davey Jones and his locker, and Blackbeard, so how much further can it be pushed?

That said, this is probably the best in the series since ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ and is short enough to hold your attention without your mind wandering as to how uncomfortable your seat is. The CG is very good and the script is tight (even if the plot is a little bewildering) with a couple of funny lines including Jack professing to “support the missionary’s position”. There is also a tongue-in-cheek poke at ‘Basil Exposition’ moments with Jack
explaining the story behind a ship he is set to plunder only to turn to camera and exclaim “oh, there’s no one there”.

This film is a return to form for the franchise, but hopefully they won’t devise another sequel or, worse, a prequel.

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