Friday, November 25, 2011

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" a Good Trip

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 97 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Running time: 137 minutes (2 hours, 17 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall
WRITERS: Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio; from a screen story by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (based upon characters created by Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, and Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio; suggested by the novel, On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers, and based upon Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean)
PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dariusz Wolski (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: David Brenner, Michael Kahn, and Wyatt Smith
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer

ACTION/FANTASY/ADVENTURE

Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Sam Clafin, Astrid Berg├Ęs-Frisbey, Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths, Greg Ellis, Damian O’Hare, Judi Dench, and Keith Richards

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a 2011 fantasy adventure film and pirate movie. It is also the fourth movie in the film franchise that began with Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003. This film draws its inspiration from the 1987 historical fantasy novel, On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers. On Stranger Tides the movie has the world’s most infamous pirates on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth.

After failing to rescue his first mate, Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is taken before King George II of England (Richard Griffiths). The King forces Jack to guide an expedition to find the Fountain of Youth. Much to his chagrin, Jack discovers that his old nemesis, Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), is heading the expedition.

Jack escapes and learns that someone is pretending to be him and is enlisting a crew for a rival expedition to find the Fountain. Then, he crosses paths with a woman from his past, the lovely Spaniard, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), and her father, the ruthless pirate, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who uses voodoo magic and possesses supernatural powers and a magical sword. Kidnapped and taken aboard Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Jack is forced to guide Blackbeard’s expedition to find the Fountain of Youth. This journey will take Jack places where nothing is as it seems and connect him with people who never tell the truth. And who is more dangerous – Blackbeard or Angelica?

I avoided going to the theatre this past summer to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides because, quite frankly, I’d had enough of the franchise. I liked the first film; really hated the second (Dead Man’s Chest); and really liked the third (At World’s End), but I was exhausted of the repeated showings of the films, especially the second and third, on various cable networks.

The first good move the filmmakers made with On Stranger Tides was to strip it down of characters and elements. It’s still ostentatious and is still filled with big set pieces, big action scenes, and big characters, and there are actors willing to give the kind of loud performances that bring these flamboyant characters to life.

After saying that, I know that it is hard to believe that it is possible for this gaudy, immodest Hollywood franchise to be stripped down. However, only three characters from the earlier films return for On Stranger Tides: Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa, and Joshamee Gibbs. Rather than have several subplots stretched over multiple locales, On Stranger Tides focuses on Sparrow, Barbossa, Blackbeard, and Angelica’s quest to find the Fountain of Youth, which involves only three locales: England, the sea, and Whitecap Bay (the area where the Fountain can be found). Screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio basically create a straight line from mission start, the quest, and the goal – beginning, middle, and end – without too much in the way of side stories or sidetracks.

I think the addition of two fine actors, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard and Angelica respectively, was the move that paid off most for On Stranger Tides. Both are good characters and they add freshness to this franchise. It is as if On Stranger Tides exists outside the other films, which is a good thing. The audience doesn’t need to have seen the other films to enjoy this one. Indeed, some may need to forget the first three in order to give this lively and entertaining, big budget flick the benefit of the doubt.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is everything you liked about the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (exotic locales, eccentric characters, the supernatural, etc.) without a horde of characters. Now, there is no reason not to like it.

7 of 10
B+

Friday, November 25, 2011

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