“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

Summer flicks generally try to only accomplish one thing: be entertaining. In the case of the Pirates films, this would be via action. And in this the fourth installment of the film series does quite well. If you’re expecting more than that, as I said yesterday, prepare to be highly disappointed.

Ye be warned, following thar be spoilers.

Movie poster

If you care strongly about a solid plot or things to move along in a logical manner, this is most certainly not the movie you are looking for. If instead you are wanting to see two-and-a-half hours of snarky pirate-speak, amazing swordfights, explosions and lots of stuff getting set on fire you will be highly satisfied. I’m of the latter variety; however, I’m an easy sell with the POTC films because I’m of a mind that all you should be expecting is Johnny Depp as the witty-and-swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow. Jack has a lot of moments to shine. He’s appropriately pulling strings masterminding his own agenda whilst making it up as he goes along — and in fact admits for the first time that’s exactly how he does things. He gets to show off some nice acrobatics and swordsmanship. And in a complete aboutplay he gets to stage a mutiny and maroon a pirate on an island. He does have some great lines, though I have to say Rush’s Barbossa seems to be siphoning off some of the better ones — and he has the best reaction shots in the film.

It’s when you look beyond all that where the issues lie. For a runtime of about two-and-a-half hours this movie feels like it’s somewhere closer to a year long. There’s a lot going on throughout the whole run, though most of it isn’t the main plot. I know this because at about the hour point I developed the strong need to use the ladies’ room and didn’t want to get up because somehow we still hadn’t gotten to the Fountain of Youth nor acquired any of the related paraphernalia required for the main plot to get going. Well, okay, perhaps the Spaniards had gotten the chalices by then, but that would be off-screen and then they went and blew up the Fountain anyway which completely negated that bit of the story. Can you say “giant plot hole?”

Of course, given how overstuffed the movie is with plots a big hole like that can be easily ignored. So, the movie does just that because it begins with those Spaniards then manages to forget about them until it requires another action scene at about the third act mark. Then it forgets about them again for a bit before the aforementioned explosion, which is aptly the end of their involvement. Meanwhile, we’ve got the British who have a one-legged Barbossa on their side. Oh, and Jack’s been commandeered as part of the crew aboard Blackbeard’s ship via his daughter Angelica. She would be some old flame of Jack’s. Not that he can admit that to anyone, including himself. Or at least, not until the very end of the film where he professes his love, which seems wildly out of character and that’s not even taking into account that it only separates the waffling about and declaration by a scant few days in the actual movie’s time. For her part, Angelica is basically a waste of screen time and I mean no disrespect to Penelope Cruz. It’s not her fault that they tried to create a replacement for Elizabeth and failed quite spectacularly. Now if that all hasn’t started to make your brain leak I’ll also mention that Blackbeard’s ship has a supernatural element to it. But that’s about as much time as the film spends on that bit of information so I’ll just move on because it’s about now that the whole ritual to the Fountain is revealed.

I guess we needed a ritual because just journeying to the Fountain wasn’t enough plot for this movie. This means that every single one of those people are off looking for the Fountain, Ponce de León’s ship, and mermaids. Strangely, even though everyone seemed to be studying those charts back in At World’s End only Jack and Gibbs have memorized the route enough to find the way unaided. This is good because the Spaniards have the charts. So, the real chaos is about getting a mermaid tear and finding two silver chalices. I wish I was kidding. Especially since all that is revealed within the first twenty minutes but nothing much comes of it until a bunch of random events occur. Blackbeard’s crew, including Jack, set out some bait for a mermaid. And because these are exactly the vicious, fearsome sea-creatures of legend they catch one! Okay, this is after a big action-packed scene where vampires attack a boat of crew. Wait, what? No, I mean mermaids with fangs. Then, the cleric manages to trap one so they can throw a net over her. Yes, a real live missionary, folks. I guess this is in no way far-fetched because he is appropriately sculpted, which is not left to the imagination since he spends most of the film after this point with his shirt off. Um, yeah, so if that didn’t beat all, the mermaid gets to be the damsel in distress to this bible-thumper! Personally I would have preferred more time with the Spaniards than having yet more plot shoehorned into the movie. Especially since this particular one is written and acted so poorly as to be almost physically painful to watch.

But now I’m getting ahead of myself because there’s also the chalices! Jack heads off to snatch those from Ponce de León’s ship, which is precariously stationed on a cliff. Inside he doesn’t find the chalices — because the Spaniards took them already — and instead is met with Barbossa who has decided to just sit there and wait for the plot to catch up with him. In a completely un-pirate move, neither of them takes any of the vast treasure aboard and instead they go off to steal the chalices from the Spaniards who are camped out in the forest spending all their off-screen time shining the silver chalices until they glow. Yes, I am serious.

Finally everyone gets to the Fountain where the big battle happens. By this point in the film such an action set-piece is pointless to the point that Jack even notes how unnecessary the whole thing would be. This is followed shortly thereafter by yet more choreographed chaos during which the Fountain gets blown up to effectively destroy any ability for people to get eternal life. The Spaniards don’t bother to check their handiwork, so of course the Fountain’s power is actually used. I warned you that the whole thing didn’t make sense, didn’t I? So, anyway, being that Blackbeard is the most underdeveloped of all the characters in the film he is of course the one to die. Leaving all of us to wonder about the specifics of his magical sword-controlled ship which has now been commandeered by Barbossa, who I assume doesn’t have any idea that the Pearl is somewhat fine and well. Not that it matters since Jack managed to steal the miniature Pearl-in-a-bottle at some point and if you haven’t figured it out yet the tail end of the movie is spent in a lackluster attempt to set up the proposed fifth and sixth films. It’s equal in measure to the rest of the confusion that was the majority of this film.

After reading all that you probably have achieved the level of brain rot necessary to ignore all the things that will take away any enjoyment of the film. Either way, the healthier alternative is to just wait for the Blu-ray. It’s an escape, no doubt about it, but as a whole it’s an underwhelming one. Shockingly, I still like the film after typing all this out so I don’t know what that says about the state of my brain.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’m fairly sure I nearly died from waiting until the end of the film (and the credits!) to utilize the ladies’ room.


  1. Great review! Thanks for writing it, I actually feel more confident about enjoying it now that I know to only expect about as much as I do when watching the sequels.

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