Anyway, I've also decided that instead of marks out of ten, I'm going to employ a star rating system, out of 5. Mainly because I feel giving a film 2 stars is better than giving it 4/10. 2 stra suggests that's there's at least something that's not awful about it while 4 out of ten makes it seem like it's terrible beyond all recognition. Just go with me on it. Ta.
And now, my review:
Now usually the 4th film in a franchise is awful, and I’m happy to report that with On Stranger Tides that particular tradition is…alive and well.
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. It’s not awful, but it’s just not very good.
Back in 2003 (!?) when the original Pirates came out, it was a breath of fresh air. An exciting, funny, run-around caper, with a hilarious character in the middle of a whole ton of action, with some supernatural elements thrown in the mix as well. It was light, frothy and fun.
With the success of the film, and the popularity of Cap’n Jack, some sequels were knocked out. These were…less successful. Although not in terms of money, they made loads, but as actual films they weren’t up to much. But at least they still had a story. An overly complex story for what once was something almost throwaway. However, the plot if you chose to follow it did make sense, and at least carried the characters through to the satisfying conclusion.
And all three of the movies had some absolutely great action sequences.
Pirates 4 is an absolutes mess of a film. It’s not exciting, you care about literally none of the characters and there’s only one action scene that’s any good.
Firstly, Jack is searching for the fountain of youth because…well, I don’t really know. Ok, he’s a pirate and that’s what he does but its not exactly great motivation for the character, and doesn’t provide us with any reason to want him to get it. Blackbeard wants it because he’s going to die otherwise (apparently down to a prophecy about a one legged man, which is the only information we’re given as to why he wants it) but he’s such a boring character that you don’t care either way. The Spanish king (?) wants it for reasons unknown, or just reasons I couldn’t be arsed remembering. Barbossa (back again for no real reason) is now working for the Crown and he’s trying to kill Blackbeard. Penelope Cruz is only there to create a bit of tension between her and Jack, and be Spanish. She only manages one of these things.
And there’s the ‘central’ couple, a missionary and a mermaid (don’t ask) who are supposed to be this movies Will’n’Liz, but they serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. I mean, literally, the mermaid does nothing but advance the plot in one scene, yet is in the movie for most of its second half. And the missionary is only there to fall in love with the mermaid, die, which causes the mermaid to cry, which is the reason why she’s in the movie in the first place, as they need a mermaid’s tears to make the fountain of youth work (again, don’t ask). And they have a few scenes together in which we’re meant to care, but end up bored.
Loose ends are everywhere in this installment. Blackbeard has some sort of supernatural voodoo control over his ship. We’re never told why. His crewmen are all zombified. We’re never told why. The human crewmembers fight against the English and Spanish armies for Blackbeard despite the fact that he enslaved them. That doesn’t make any sense. The mermaid who seconds earlier was attacking the missionary saves his life, and then falls in love with him. Although I’ll be damned if I know why.
At least in the previous installments we were told why such things were going on, almost to a fault really. Davy Jones had a back-story that was cool and tragic. Will and Elizabeth had a believable romance. Jack was always out for his own survival (mostly). In this, stuff just happens and they seem not to be worried about it making any kind of sense, just so long as Jack Sparrow’s there to make a funny joke.
It’s just not funny. Not the character, he still is, but only whenever he’s given something funny to say. Just having him there, mincing about the place isn’t enough. It’s been said that the first three movies were movies that just happened to have Jack in them, adding something different to the mix; they weren’t about Jack as such, but he was there anyway. Putting him as the focal point of the fourth movie doesn’t work. It works when there’s stuff happening around Jack, not when he’s the reason why it’s happening. And because he’s there in every scene he’s often just being serious (or as serious as that character can be) and doesn’t provide the comic relief he did in the previous films.
Still, at least some stellar action sequences might help. Pity there aren’t any. There are action sequences but they’re so staged and clinical that there’s no excitement to be drawn from them. Action-by-numbers if you will. Only one sequence feels fresh, and that’s the mermaid attack. It’s genuinely scary, and pretty exciting. Shame that the rest of the action sequences are dull and rote.
So, overall I didn’t like it very much. Which was disappointing as I can see they tried to make a more streamlined Pirates movie after the epic trilogy that preceded it, but they just about failed in every aspect.
Still, it’ll make enough money for Pirates 5 to already be in production.