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Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Movie Review by A.D.Harris

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I've always thought that a pirate is very set in his ways. No matter how much he claims that he is quitting his quest for gold, no matter how changed a man he is, he will always feel the need to plunder, pillage and steal those shiny pieces of eight. In a sense they are very much men who have one path and one path only, for all eternity. It is these words that ring so ironically true in this, the fourth of the 'Caribbean' franchise starring Johnny Depp as drunkard and all round action-hero pirate Jack Sparrow (Shouldn't there be a captain in there, somewhere?)

The reason I say that there is a sense of irony is that I was promised that they were going to learn from the sinking ship that was 'At World's End'; a messy and over-long boat crash that made you nothing short of confused, angry and perplexed at why they felt the need to take the fun out of the frolics. Too often then was I wondering why Tia Dalma was turning into a giant crab-like god or why Jack Sparrow was seeing himself thrice that I just lost my way and dis-engaged...
But all that was changing, the pirate-writers had learned from their mistakes and were promising a 'back to basics' blockbuster. I was encouraged and excited and eager to see if they delivered on their promise. Sadly the answer is no as 'On Stranger Tides' in many ways falls straight back into the chasm that its predecessor found itself; it's too long with a horribly lackluster middle act and at times the story is confusing whilst in second though is very basic. You can tell something has gone wrong when what should be simple is overly complicated and it's something that the pirates who are forever shifting allegiances too often become.

That's not to say that Pirates 4 has not made some baby steps to salvation. The opening is perhaps as strong as 'Curse of the Black Pearl' with a stunningly choreographed escape through the streets of London and an on-fire Johnny Depp showing why Jack Sparrow is the most iconic character to have been created this side of the millennium. It's funny, fast, frantic, action packed and exciting and has your hope raised for a hum-dinger of a storyline which sees a 'redeemed' Barbossa leading the British in a race against Sparrow and the Spanish to the fabled Fountain of Youth.

Yet this is where, somehow, it all goes wrong...
On paper it should only get better; Penelope Cruz joins the cast as the feisty Angelica and scene-chewing megatron Ian McShane plays the villainous Blackbeard as we hit the open waters where previous Pirates movies have excelled yet suddenly the characters become wishy-washy, the storyline a dull monotony... Jack loses his charm, Angelica is a shadow of what she was clearly envisioned as and is no match in terms of feisty relationships to what Elizabeth Swann had with Sparrow. Ian McShane throws everything at Blackbeard, gritty and deep with a dark abyss in his eyes but Blackbeard is a terribly written character; he is totally lacking in menace in terms of his storyline and backstory that no matter how much McShane gives he still is a lesser villain to what Davey Jones was in the last two movies. Also the plot goes no-where for a good 45 minutes, going from one boat to another with wordy, pointless scenes which began to make me feel sick as a parrot and beyond bored. Thank god for Barbossa then, Geoffrey Rush once again pushing every ounce of pirate in his bones out to make his apple-loving-peg leg the stand out performer in a soar midpoint.

Just when the slumber begins to set in, 'Pirates 4' finds its feet with a spectacular set-piece sequence involving mermaids, by far the standout moment of the movie; spooky, scary and spellbinding. It's moments like this that remind you of that moment when Barbossa first stepped out into the moonlight in the original that sent chills down your back and had you perched on the edge of your seat; Pirates of the Carribean at it's best and creating iconic moments of cinema. Suddenly you're gripped for the finale on a mysterious island that supposedly houses the much sought after fountain.

As the movie slightly unravels again in terms of plotline, Jack Sparrow once again finds some form and Depp makes the Captain fun again as the climax arrives with a big bang and an Indiana Jones esque trip through the jungle. At this point the clarity of the plot has been totally lost, but it doesn't matter as the swords come out and the frantic race against time to seize the fountains powers heats up. As Mermaids, Blackbeard, Barbossa & Sparrow collide you're left with a strong if not spectacular climax that satisfies enough to leave you smiling and even if the small twist is as obvious as an elephant sitting on your car it still leaves you cheering inside....
The ending doesn't wrap a bow on the storyline leaving the option of a further sequel to continue on with the Pirates life, and even though I'm sure the audience's patience is more than just beginning to get on the thin side there was some evidence that they are heading in the right direction. I think it deserves one more shot... but it really is the last shot Sparrow has in his pistol.
The right direction for 'Pirates 5' needs to be simply this; The Pirates Life. Nothing more, nothing less... plundering and pillaging, a lot of gold and a lot of fun... Some really bad eggs as well!


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Twitter: @AdDHarris
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Also don't waste your life waiting for the post-credits scene. It's ridiculously poor...

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