Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Walked the Plank and Jumped the Shark

19 May, 2011 at 6:43 pm 8 comments

I’ve been waiting impatiently for the latest ship in the PotC fleet to make port. I did so with a mixture of hope and reluctance, though. The first movie had been great, the second acceptable, but the third? An absolute disaster. We refer to it, not very lovingly, as “At Wits End” or “The Scottish Movie”. The only reason why I was willing to give PotC one more chance was the promised return of the Royal Navy. What can I say: I’m weak. I just can’t resist navy uniforms, beautiful ships, swashbuckling heroes, dastardly villains and battles at sea. Unfortunately, cinema nowadays doesn’t offer much in that department.

Then again, neither does “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”.

The story takes place during the reign of George II., who ruled from 1727 – 1760. The Union Jack, as flown in the picture below, was adopted in 1801, after the merging of the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain.

“So what, it’s only a movie!” you might say. Eh, the Irish might disagree there, and I’m quite certain that there would be some commotion if the BBC would produce a TV movie set in the USA and fly the Stars and Stripes upside down. Small detail as it may be, this blunder should have been a warning voice that maybe not too much care had been put into the fourth movie of the franchise. But did I listen? Of course not.

Imagine the following scenario: you’re invited to a tea party at Scrooge McDuck’s house, along with twenty other people. Scrooge McDuck being his generous self, all guests have to share one tea bag. Got that? Good. Now, the fluid in your cup would still have more flavour than “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”. And at least the invitation wouldn’t have cost you money.

As far as the ingredients go, OST should have been a delicious meal. Stars like Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz. And pirates! Mermaids! Zombies! And ships! And two navies! How is it possible to have all that and still produce the movie-equivalent of a four days old McDonalds hamburger?!

The actors weren’t allowed to act. Ian McShane did his best to be a menacing Blackbeard, but the script didn’t allow him to show his skills. Rather than “the pirate all pirates fear”, he looked like Hagrid’s little brother. I can’t imagine that Davy Jones would have been afraid of him, or Lord Cutler Beckett. This pirate lacks the class and style of the former villains, but that’s not Ian McShane’s fault. Blackbeard has magic powers and can turn the dead into zombies – who gave him those powers? Or where did he get them? Tescos? Waitrose? It’s not explained, and nobody seems to care.

The zombies were just standing or stumbling around, without a backstory or purpose. The mermaids, I have to give that to the movie, were stunning, and provided the only truly captivating and thrilling scene. Jaws with boobs! But again, mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and missionary Philip Swift (Sam Claflin) were just there, little more than props. Is Philip dead? Did Syrena save or kill him? I have no idea, but with a bit of luck, they managed to escape PotC 5 and lived happily ever after.

Oh, and don’t expect any battles at sea. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen just about all the action involving HMS Providence and the Queen Anne’s Revenge that there is.  Why have ships if you don’t use them? They might as well saved the money and stayed ashore, given everybody a donkey and called it “On Stranger Rides”.

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow has his moments, but he can’t reach his full Sparrowpotential without a straight man by his side to play off from. He’s at risk of turning the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow into his own caricature. And when he fights an imposter in the backroom of a tavern, you can’t help but remember the rather similar scene from the first movie, where he fights with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in a smithy. It all looked the same to me. There was a constant feeling of déjà-vû, and that was not due to Voodoo. OST doesn’t have too many original bones in its body; like a zombie the plot totters along without spirit or life, to find eventually an unspectacular end at the Fountain of Youth. And as for the much-hyped “romance” among pirates: there are no sparks, no chemistry between Jack and Anjelica. And if they don’t care, why should we?

If it hadn’t been for Geoffrey Rush as Hector Barbossa and Kevin McNally as Mr. Gibbs, I’d probably left halfway through the movie. Barbossa makes a great privateer, and we feel with his suffering crew, especially Commodore Norrington’s (Jack Davenport) two lieutenants, Gillette (Damian O’Hare) and Groves (Greg Ellis). Much to my disappointment those two characters from the first movie both died. Some say that OST is a prequel. I don’t think so, but if that was true, Norrington would have had two zombie-officers. Cool!

As much as I hate to say this, but OST is worse than “At Wits End”. One bad clichée followed the next, from the ridiculous portrayal of George II. as a drooling fool who is two jewels short of a full crown, to the fanatically religious Spaniards.  The latter are introduced, you don’t see them for most of the movie, and then they are suddenly back and turn out to be on a mission from God. Huh? What? Quoi? How random.

The movie is dark – if you watch it in 3D, there will be scenes where you have to take your glasses off to see anything at all. That aside, the 3D effects are neat. Make sure you get seats in the middle of the cinema for best 3D results. Not that I encourage you to buy a ticket, though – the hell the no! Wait for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” to turn up on DVD at your local thrift shop. Then at least you’ll support charity if you buy it.

There’s a difference between milking a franchise and milking it dry, and Disney is doing the latter. And as far as I’m concerned, “Pirates of the Caribbean” has walked the plank and jumped the shark. A pity.


Entry filed under: movies, potc, rnotc.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Emma Kenny  |  19 May, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Damn those Yanks! 800 years of British oppression and now this?

    Very balanced review considering how much you didn’t like it.

    • 2. Molly Joyful  |  20 May, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Very balanced review considering how much you didn’t like it.

      I didn’t want to riks to have my blog banned from all library computers due to excessive use of inappropriate language… ;-P

  • 3. Randy  |  20 May, 2011 at 1:58 pm


    I’m going out on a limb and say Syrena MAY have saved Philip…because as u recall during the movie one of the crew members on the boat in the bay said that a kiss from a mermaid saves u from being drowned….however i don’t know where the hell Syrena took Philip…there is a possibility she probably did kill him. I don’t know.

    • 4. Molly Joyful  |  20 May, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      I tend to think that she saved him, and that they’ll be back for PotC 5. From the little we’ve seen of her character, I think it’s unlikely she harmed him. She saved him once before, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t save him again (but then again, I’m a hopeless optimist…!)

  • 5. Luna  |  6 June, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    The Spanish seemed to be coming from the early seveteenth century. Ferdinand VI was not, in fact, a melancholic monk-like Habsburg, but a pragmatic Bourbon whose Daddy was a vivacious Frenchie and his Mummy a level-headed Italian and who actually achieved to get the Catholic clergy under control. But whatever, what would we do without the Spanish MEN IN BLACK ( the Tudors, C. Blanchett’s Elizabeth, etc.) who appear like the Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition to spoil all the fun? Well, at least they were hot and were not lacking in military skills and in honour, if there’s anyone left in this franchise to appreciate that last mentioned particular feature. 😉

  • 6. Seaborn Reed  |  3 August, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    So agree with you! I’m a bit late here, but found this page in trying to find an image of the Union Jack from the FIRST Pirates, which I was so happy to see was completely accurate–without the red cross. I’ve seen it too many times to count, but only just last week realized that the flat was accurate. And it’s not geeky, it’s called caring about historical details! 😀 (Sad to see they got it so wrong on this one.)

    btw: A zombie Norrington would be awesome.

    • 7. Molly Joyful  |  24 August, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Zombie!Norrington is about the only thing which might – MIGHT! – make me spend money on a ticket for POTC5. As things are, I still regret the £££ I wasted on the last ticket. POTC4 was shoddy work, and you could tell they threw even the last hint of historical accuracy out of the window. The wrong Union Jack was really symbolic for the mess that movie was. (A year has passed, and I’m STILL miffed!) 😉

  • […] I guess my question is this; who is buying tickets to go and see Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and what is the motivation? Seriously. The more we invest in this type of  unoriginal ‘token […]


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