Review of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, & Ian McShane


As I said in my review of Fast Five, sometimes it’s okay for a movie to be light-hearted and fun. Pirates 4 is another example of one of those movies. While it does involve one plot-line that touches on a few interesting themes, the movie as a whole makes no effort to be overly dramatic or thematic. It revels in its fun and has a great energy and pace to it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides stars Johnny Depp as the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow on a quest to find the fountain of youth. But as we know from the past three films, nothing is ever easy with Jack Sparrow. Also en route to the fountain are the Spanish, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and the now-privateer Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). And since it wouldn’t be a Pirates movie without a saucy young lady, an old flame of Sparrow’s, played by Penélope Cruz, also gets involved (who, by the way, is still sexy wearing a fake moustache).

Not liking the second and the third Pirates movies, I was very hesitant to see this one, and the trailer did not give me a good vibe. That said, this movie actually serves as a reboot to the series. It has more in common with the first Pirates film, which I still believe to be one of the better adventure films of the 2000s than it does with its sequels. Gone are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, and the focus is squarely on Johnny Depp. Say what you will about the man, but he can carry a movie.

"You look surprisingly similar to Keira Knightley right now Penélope..."

One of the biggest problems with Pirates 3 is its scope. It has far too many characters and tries to do too much. It just ends up being an incomprehensible mess. Although Pirates 4 sounds like it would have the same problem, considering all the different groups going after the fountain, it does not fall into the same trap. The movie spends basically no time with the Spanish, using them as more of a plot point than a character, and in true Pirates fashion the characters intersect often. There are never more than 2 groups of characters to follow, with Jack Sparrow always being involved directly with one or the other.

Beyond the main plot, there are a couple of sub-plots, including the relationship between Barbossa and Sparrow, the relationship between Angelica (Cruz) and Sparrow, and the character of Philip (Sam Claflin), a clergyman taken by Blackbeard as a slave. Despite my opinions of religion and my aversion to such one-note goody-two-shoes characters, the Philip character was by far the most interesting part of the film, and the only aspect of the film which had thematic relevance. Good vs. Evil, faith, salvation are a few of the ideas that get a little bit of attention, just enough to give the film some weight.

"I'm on a boat."

As an adventure movie, the most important part of the film is its action. Although the set pieces are not as innovative as in the past movies, they are still very exciting. I’m a sucker for sword-fights and there is a very good one near the beginning of the film. The finale of the film, again in true Pirates fashion, is a tense confrontation between all parties involved, and is very reminiscent of the finale in Curse of the Black Pearl. The only disappointing part of the action is that there is no ship to ship combat, which, when well executed, is absolutely fantastic to see (e.g. Master & Commander).

The direction is competent, although nothing special, the soundtrack is comprised of the familiar bombastic Pirates tunes, and the acting is fun and energetic as you would expect. On the whole, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides knows exactly what it wants to be (a popcorn adventure movie) and hits the spot. Every once in a while it’s okay to have movies like this, but if movies don’t try to achieve more, we would never get movies like Inception or Kick-Ass. If you want a well-paced action adventure that’s a lot of fun, go see Pirates, but if you’re looking for any sort of character exploration, drama, or thematic exploration, go elsewhere.

Author: 8bithero

My name is Robin, I'm a sociology and psychology student who spends way too much time on the Internet and watches movies and TV instead of talking to girls and doing other normal guy stuff.

  • This one didn’t feel as epic as the second and third Pirates films and in many ways that’s a good thing. I also wish they did more with Captain Jack, but Depp is always amusing as him, and I still had some fun with this enjoyable Summer blockbuster. Good review, check out mine when you can!

    •  I think the major point of departure is just that you liked number 2 and 3 but I did not, so I liked the changes to the franchise more than you did. It did leave some stuff on the table though potential-wise.