15 June 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally
Written by Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio
Directed by Rob Marshal
Release: 20 May 2011
Disney, 137 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Jack Sparrow is tasked with finding the Fountain of Youth before Barbossa and the Spanish make their way there.

Jack Sparrow's back. Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio have come back to pen the script. Hans Zimmer is back to bring the signature action/adventure-y funness to the table with his score (aided by some band called Rodrigo Y Gabriela). Even Mr. Gibbs and Barbossa are back. A rather inventive adventure is concocted. A interesting character or two are introduced into the foray. There's two romantic subplots. Lots of action and crazy stunts galore. Basically, all the ingredients to make another successful and entertaining PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie. But weirdly, it feels like something's missing. And ultimately, I can't help but feel that whatever it is exactly has made ON STRANGER TIDES less than what it could have been.Perhaps it's the vacancy of Gore Verbinski at the director seat, taken over by Rob Marshal (CHICAGO). I recognize it may be rather ridiculous to pinpoint a director as the source of the problems, and that more often then not, it's the script that needs to be analyzed. To make a comparison that works for me, ON STRANGER TIDES is similar to QUANTUM OF SOLACE. With Daniel Craig's second outing as James Bond, I was utterly bored. The script was lacking, the action scenes were boring, and I the change of directors was surprisingly excruciatingly apparent. ON STRANGER TIDES isn't as severe as SOLACE, but the fact that there is change both in the universe of the film and behind the scenes is, I feel, obvious and possibly detrimental. I feel hesitant to blame Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. With the POTC trilogy involving the Jack-Will-Elizabeth dynamic, from a screenwriting standpoint, I find them quite solid. Here, the movie seems to have plenty of ideas that don't see their potential through, or sometimes not enough ideas or originality or obstacles to make the story or characters super interesting. Right now I'm thinking about the romance between the Bible Thumper and Mermaid Girl, as well as the relationship between Blackbeard and Penelope Cruz. Surprisingly, for a movie clocking in at 137 minutes, I feel that there's not enough. Or rather, not enough with some things, and too much in others. And with regards to Rob Marshal's directing style, it's an obvious departure from Verbinski's Nolan-esque knack for exquisite camerawork, but still a confidant and pretty enough film [here, I'm thinking of Blackbeard's gorgeous demise; and no, I don't consider that a spoiler, mostly a duh kind of thing]. All of this is just a wordy way of shrugging and saying I don't know exactly what's up with ON STRANGER TIDES, but there's just something that feels off.Johnny Depp loves playing Captain Jack Sparrow, and it's abundantly apparent in every scene he's in. Yet, he, too, feels a little off. Like it's nearly the Jack Sparrow we know and love, but there was some sort of shift in how he is played or written. Nah, not written. The trademark one liners and crazy antics are all there, yet he doesn't feel entirely genuine. Maybe this might be one of those cases where too much of something we love is a bad thing? Love them or hate them, Will and Elizabeth grounded the character dynamic of the trilogy - they were the more serious, more human characters while we had Captain Jack running around like a loose canon and a miserable and vile sea captain with tentacles on his face. Perhaps POTC needs equally grounded characters to make Captain Jack shine, and unfortunately, there aren't any here. Penelope Cruz would seem like the next Big Player, but she fails to make an impression, both in scripted character and actor presence. Which is a shame, mind you. Even the great Geoffrey Rush doesn't entirely own Barbossa, although I admit I was very distracted by whatever new hideous makeup they had him wearing this time out (looked like his skin was peeling). Ian McShane deserves kudos for trying to impress with his evil and cold-hearted Blackbeard, and he does own the role, but I would argue more development needed to be attributed to the character for the audience to really give a damn about any of the last two acts (since he and his selfishness domineers it). The less said about the silly romance between Preacher Boy and Mermaid Girl the better, frankly. I recognize I may sound far too harsh on this film, but for the most part, ON STRANGER TIDES is an enjoyable action/adventure movie. While you're watching it, the film's entertaining enough; it's only after everything is said and done (and the rather lame post-credits sequence is played) that one begins to feel that the movie wasn't entirely up to snuff, that something was off or could have been remedied. For a fourth film in a franchise, ON STRANGER TIDES definitely is one of the better installments, and gives me hope that the future of POTC will indeed be a good one. I still look forward to a fifth film, and depending on how good that one is, potentially a sixth. Captain Jack Sparrow has amazing charisma and worldwide interest, so as long as the scripts are strong enough and the public want him, we'll see Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow back again in no time. The journey this time around wasn't as thrilling as the previous three, but it's a good step in the right direction for Jack-oriented stories. So here's to looking at the future, and a rather well-done film that had a lot to accomplish.

Rating: 7/10 = Although there does feel like there's something missing, ON STRANGER TIDES meets and fulfills the action/adventure/funness expectations of its predecessors and is a jolly fun good time when watching.

No comments: