Blockbuster Movie Month: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" Review

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 136 minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2011
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy

The original "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy became one of the most beloved adventure film series of modern time. Audiences were devastated when the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow finally came to end. However, in 2011, director Bob Marshall brought Jack and his crew back in all their glory with "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," an exciting new adventure based on a fantasy novel by Tim Powers. This time, Jack Sparrow and Barbossa set off in search of the Fountain of Youth, encountering mermaids and the notorious Blackbeard on their perilous journey.

The beginning of the film reintroduces Jack Sparrow as he heads to London to rescue his first mate Mr. Gibbs and the important map in his possession. Things escalate as he's brought before the king and asked to lead an expedition to locate the Fountain of Youth. He then discovers that his old enemy and rival Barbossa is heading the search as a privateer. Unwilling to comply, Jack escapes and leaves Gibbs behind, and he soon encounters his father, Captain Teague. The elderly captain warns him of the dangers he will encounter at the Fountain of Youth.

Jack soon discovers someone is posing as him, so he sets out to find the impostor, only to discover it's Angelica, an old love interest. Thanks to Angelica's schemes, Jack soon finds himself aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge as a captive guide. There, he meets the legendary Captain Blackbeard, a voodoo-practicing pirate known for his ruthless ways. Meanwhile, Gibbs destroys the map to the Fountain of Youth after memorizing it, making himself indispensable to Barbossa and his crew. The pirate-turned-privateer reluctantly takes him on the expedition, and the race between the two crews begins.

Sparrow reveals to Blackbeard that they require two silver chalices belonging to Ponce De Leon as well as a mermaid's tear in order to make the fountain's magic work. They then set off the find the chalices and capture a mermaid. Sparrow is sent to retrieve the chalices from Leon's grounded ship, and Blackbeard's crew takes on the terrifying task of retrieving a mermaid, creatures known to drown sailors after alluring them with their beauty. They're able to capture one, and the captive clergyman Philip soon falls in love with her and names her Syrena. As Blackbeard's crew and Barbossa's crew approach the Fountain, the brutal encounter will ultimately decide their fates.

As always, Johnny Depp is excellent as Jack Sparrow, incorporating the same characteristic movements, speech and sense of humor that made him into the most beloved character in the series. Depp breathes life into the new story in a way no other actor can, making it into a worthy member of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. Geoffrey Rush is oddly lovable as the scheming Captain Barbossa, and the rivalry his character forms with Jack Sparrow is one of the best elements of the film. In fact, it's disappointing that the film doesn't feature more of Rush's Barbossa. Newcomer Penélope Cruz is stunning as the fierce Angelica, and Ian McShane plays the evil Blackbeard with gusto.

Due to the fact this film is based on a book and follows it closely at times, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" carries a certain depth not seen in the other three films, complete with complex characters, back stories and subplots. This aspect has its advantages at times, but the resulting plot lacks the simplistic story that gave the first film its charm. Nevertheless, the fast-paced plot features plenty of fun action sequences, fantastical terrors and typical "Pirates" humor, which fans are sure to enjoy.

Still, the adventurous tale tends to underuse some of its strongest characters in its attempt to tell too many stories at once. For instance, the relationships between Angelica and Blackbeard, Angelica and Sparrow, Syrena and Philip and others are all introduced but never really developed. Additionally, the subplot involving Syrena and Philip often feels slow and tacked-on, never truly becoming a believable part of the "Pirates" adventure.

Despite its flaws, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is an enthralling adventure that's highly recommended to fans of the original trilogy. Featuring a new story and a cast of new characters, this film features the perfect blend of the old and the new with everyone's favorite pirate captain at the plot's center. The final adventure of Jack Sparrow and the rest is certain to keep audiences on the edge of their seats from beginning to end, and the exciting ending will surely leave them satisfied.