Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth instalment in the multi-billion pound action-adventure franchise, and possibly the easiest to understand. This time, we follow Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he lands himself in a bit of a bind after being lured onto Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) ship by enigmatic siren – and old flame – Angelica (Penélope Cruz), and is forced to seek out the Fountain of Youth.
While it’s certainly exciting to see Jack on another adventure, the frenzy soon fades, leaving in its midst Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio’s exhausted, clumsy and bland story – one that’s fuelled only by cliched action sequences. To add to this, On Stranger Tides completely fails to acknowledge anything that happened in the first trilogy. Yes, this film may be the standalone instalment producers were seeking, but it loses most of its credibility in the process.
Rob Marshall, who takes over directorial duties from Gore Verbinski, doesn’t inpart any visible influence on the film. His background in musicals and stage shows, where he basks in vivid colours and exciting set pieces, seems to have disappeared. On Stranger Tides is tinged with a dull, lifeless light, made worse only by Marshall’s pedestrian direction. It’s a shame, because the sequences involving the mermaids – which were genuinely exciting and engaging – were lit so dimly that you had to squint to be able to distinguish similarly clothed characters. Not an enjoyable experience in the slightest.
Nearly every performance within the film – both from new and recurring cast members - is muted and stoic. While Depp is still charming and enthralling as Captain Jack Sparrow, the plot and trite dialogue doesn’t leave him much room to breathe. Other actors, namely Cruz, Geoffrey Rush – who returns as Barbossa – and McShane, deliver adequate performances as their respective characters, but none are particularly noteworthy or seem to have the energy to prove their worth.
It goes to show that no matter how ridiculous Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were – nor how annoying Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom’s characters had become – it’s a shame to see a franchise that started off so fresh transform into a sheer money-making wreck. If only Knightley’s Elizabeth Swan had shown up to re-utter one of the franchises best lines – “You like pain? Try wearing a corset” – On Stranger Tides may have saved itself. Just.Follow @jamieneish