angelophile: (Iron Man - Why has the rum gone)
[personal profile] angelophile




Went and saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last night. And while it was a perfectly acceptable distraction, I'm having a tough job composing a review of it because it lacked anything really memorable.

See, with the previous Pirate movies, after the first they were overlong and overblown, but there was at least one stand-out memorable scene. In the second the fruit kebab scene or the three way sword fight, for example. In the third, the finale with the whirlpool. There's usually something to arrest the attention.

With this latest outing, I watched it last night and I'm struggling to remember any of the scenes.

That said, overall it was a better picture than the previous two sequels. While it was overlong, it didn't drag as much as those movies and it had the strength of being a (almost) self-contained narrative, instead of relying heavily on what had come before and adding more complications to the mix, like the last sequels. It doesn't deserve the drubbing it's getting from the critics and serves as a perfectly decent way to kill a couple of hours.

However, the critics have a few things right.

Firstly: The 3D. Don't bother. There's barely any 3D effect and all the 3D glasses do is muddy a picture that already mostly takes place in gloom.

Then there's the tacked on love story, which feels like the writers were initially aiming to have Penelope Cruz' character as love interest, then realized that a love story involving Jack Sparrow wouldn't really fly, so they shoved in a hasty addition. With the result that the supposed love story is about as three-dimensional and interesting as two cardboard cutouts being made to kiss.

Then there's the script, which is just not as much... fun as the original. Take the deadpan stretches of the previous two movies and stretch them across the movie and that's what you have here. Johnny Depp's left the thankless task of providing comic relief for the whole movie and seems like he's phoning it in for a lot of the time. There's no comic support from any of the other series regulars and it shows.

The complaint that neither Ian McShane as Blackbeard nor Geoffrey Rush as Barbosa are given enough to do also somewhat rings true. Really, it should have been their movie. But Geoff Rush has his teeth pulled somewhat by the narrative and Ian McShane's never really menacing enough because he's not given enough villainy to perform, despite unnecessary tacked-on supernatural elements. And that's where the movie, like the previous outings, falls down really. Just too much of the supernatural and myth and not enough piracy. The original movie had that element, but it was simply presented - a curse that made the pirates the living dead. In this movie, in addition to the Fountain of Youth, you have a sword that allows its bearer to bring their ship to life, zombies, shrunken ships, mermaids, the undead, supernatural flamethrowers, magical rituals, prophesy... it's just all too much.

Then there's the uncomfortable underlying current to the movie. Gone is Keira Knightley's swashbuckling - instead we get the deceptive and manipulative Penelope Cruz as the female 'hero'. Her character is rather flat and the writers can never seem to decide whether to make her a stereotypical "women are evul" femme fatale or make her sympathetic and end up trying to do both, which leaves Cruz never able to really sink her teeth into one direction or the other. Outside of her, the only other female characters spend their time being abused, reduced to monsters, tortured and/or killed by most of the men in the movie. It makes for uncomfortable viewing, adding a nasty aftertaste which doesn't say good things about the team behind the film.

But, over all, the movie may still please anyone who's enamored with Jack Sparrow's charm, but it lacks the broad humor and fun of the original movie, which even its sequels had in part, there's something missing. The narrative is stronger, particularly Barbosa's story, but unnecessarily distracted from by needless supernatural elements and unmemorable action sequences. The trimmed cast leaves Depp carrying the whole thing - unnecessarily so when Rush and McShane are there, with their stories sidelined - and Jack Sparrow should essentially be comic support, not the heroic leading man and trying to shift him into that role doesn't really work.

But if you have a couple of hours to spare, you could do worse.

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