What the heck Disney? You couldn’t get it right the third sequel in? Come on now. Though I have to admit my expectations weren’t very high after the travesties that were Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, I had a little hope for Stranger Tides. But alas! It’s like hoping for redemption from M. Night Shyamalan (who, by the way, I’m also still secretly pulling for). Stranger Tides left me feeling about as bewildered as I had after seeing 20 Jack Sparrows on that ship in the middle of that white thing in number 2 (or was it 3…).
For one thing, this movie (like the others) has gone waaaay over-the-top in terms of inexplicable mystical realism. While in the first film, the characters were shocked and amazed to find the crew of the Black Pearl able to turn into skeletons at the full moon, such phenomena in the fourth installment barely bat an eyelash and the lack of explanation for these strange things left me extremely confused. Among such unexplained elements were a fortune-telling zombie, Blackbeard the pirate controlling his ship by magic hand flutters, actual ships held in bottles, and vampire-mermaids to name a few.
But even besides the fantastic bits the plot was as riddled with holes as a block of swiss cheese. We see Angelica as the newly discovered daughter of Blackbeard but we are never told how they know for sure; they are on a quest for the fountain of youth but we are never really told why; they seem to add a lot of elements of religion only to completely drop them; and the most pressing, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MISSIONARY AND THE MERMAID?!? Perhaps the others can be overlooked but I was pissed off leaving the theater simply because the fine directors and script writers at Disney couldn’t find a simple ending to the romance between the missionary and his sympathetic mermaid? Basically as it ends and he is slashed at the stomach telling her what a great person she is, she says “I can save you!”, takes him, dives under the water with him and then…THEY CUT TO ANOTHER SCENE. And really, this trivial plot point had barely been necessary to the entire story. The missionary was a totally expendable character and the mermaid, while unfortunately treated, didn’t really have much to do with the central plot either. In fact there seemed to be a lot of strange things added into the plot for pure whimsy: the bit with Jack and Barbosa in the treasure-filled tree-ship, Gibbs just…as a character, Jack leaving Angelica deserted on an island, Keith Richards again…as a character in general, and even the Spanish Armada (what the heck were they doing in there and why didn’t they speak to Angelica in Spanish).
Perhaps the one redeeming factor for the movie was the fact that it still had the same awesome characters (probably the main reason people keep returning to see these films). Johnny Depp as CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow was, as always, very hilarious and Barbosa marauding as a naval officer was hilarious. Even Gibbs, though I couldn’t find a purpose for which he would be in the film, was a comfort to see on the screen. Even the new characters weren’t bad. I enjoyed Penelope Cruz as Angelica (though I highly doubt that her character would allow herself to be left on an island alone) and even Blackbeard had some interesting spunk (I liked how they set his beard smoking at one point, which was something that he actually DID to intimidate his foes). Also the painstaking details to these characters and to the movie as a whole rendered the film watchable. With really dirty characters and impressive sets I think that this movie would be worth seeing only if you are literally in love with Johnny Depp or if you are a big fan of the franchise and don’t pay attention to plot.
three stars outa five.