DAY 25: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I liked the first Pirates of the Caribbean. The story was fresh and novel, the characters lively and entertaining, Jack Sparrow “savvy”, witty, and incompetent all the same, and every tidbit of humor subtle in its manifestation. It was the perfect amalgamation of all these elements. It’s one of my favorite adventure-style movies, second only to Indiana Jones.

But then the second came along. I didn’t mind the second – thought it was fairly decent, actually – but the innocence and humor of the original vanished, and a certain gravity and solemnity was cast over the sequel. It wasn’t a bad change. In fact, it could have been a good change, if they had only made it a little less odd and eccentric.

Promotional poster for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

By the third, things are so out of control and strange that I could barely recognize it as Pirates of the Caribbean anymore. It was a strange mix of many incoherent elements that just didn’t work for me; it was as if they were simply trying too hard to make the movie serious and deep, and failed because the source material just wouldn’t accommodate it, and because one cannot consciously make something that they know beyond a reasonable doubt will stick indelibly in someone’s mind. They can try, but there’s never a guarantee.

Now we have Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides.

Stranger tides indeed.

This movie does not have much direction at all. Given that there is something of a plot, it’s scattered and incongruous at best, and the motivations of the characters are unknown for the most part, making everything feel more sitcom-ish and less believable. Everyone is just tagging along for the ride; it’s like a big theatrical situation drama where people die and make jokes about everything and have sword duels and find fountains of youth and woo English aristocrats.

Speaking of aristocrats…

I couldn’t stand the way they portrayed the British nobility in this movie. In the former three, they were at least intelligent and capable; in this, they were simply there to be mocked and derided, particularly King George, who was shown to be childish, trivial, fastidious, temperamental, and easily frightened. He was like an agitated dandy, really, and I wasn’t a fan of that. At least Commodore Norrington, in the first three, was respectable and believable, though he was dislikable. In this, there was absolutely no illusion that this man was a king, let alone of England! While Pirates of the Caribbean is not renowned for its realism (and it never will be), I pray that the filmmakers would at least go for some suspension of disbelief! Three cheers for Richard Griffiths, though, who, in spite of the strangeness of his role as George, pulled it off as admirably as can be expected. Keep in mind that this is the same man who played Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter movies, and who did an excellent job at that as well. His track record demonstrates that he can pull off parts such as these.

Then there’s the quality of the movie footage. This is one of the same issues I had with The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and I can’t figure out why it happens. For some reason (to my eyes), the film looks more like the raw footage does before being converted into actual film; that is, there isn’t that “movie-effect” that’s always been present in other productions. I don’t know if this is because the movie was filmed for 3D and they had to use special techniques, but whatever they’ve changed, they need to revert to the original, because I just can’t stand it!

That’s just my opinion, though. If others don’t notice it, then it’s probably not as big a problem as I’ve imagined it to be!

Now, down to the actual film itself.

First off the bat, it was very shallow. Towards the end, they tried to evoke some sort of sympathy in our hearts for the characters in peril, tried to make us care when the climax came at last, but the film didn’t earn it. We never experienced the relationships that they tried to make us see at the end, so we couldn’t believe them. What could have been a moving and heart wrenching denouement turned out just be a “plain ending” for me.

Given, Pirates of the Caribbean is not known for its profoundness, but if they’re going to try, they should at least try, instead of throwing a bit of

Jack Sparrow (portrayed by Johnny Depp) on another promotional poster for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

sadness and relationship-tensity in at the end and calling it “deep”. But the Pirates of the Caribbean source material wasn’t designed to be deep, it was designed to be witty, humorous, and pleasant to watch in a way that felt smart and savvy, all focused, in this wise, around the main character, Jack Sparrow, the epitome of stupid-smartness. If such a contradiction exists in anyone, it exists in this eccentric pirate who seems to have everything his way in the end, though how much of this can be afforded to fortune and how much of it can be afforded to his own cleverness remains uncertain to us. And that’s just the way we like it. We want to believe that he knows what he’s doing, but are not always sure, and it delights us.

They tried at this humor in On Stranger Tides, but it just wasn’t as subtle and brilliant as it was in The Curse of the Black Pearl. Everything Jack says that is supposedly funny is overemphasized and conspicuous, dashing the hopes of anyone who had wished for some measure of witty subtlety, like me. There were some funny parts, granted, but they were so contrived that they tore me out of the movie, and compelled me to think that they were trying for laughs, instead of letting Jack’s witty, inconspicuous comments provide the levity needed to make the movie work.

And then there’s the dreaded sexual innuendo, which I won’t get into here. Let’s just say that I was disappointed, to say the least. There was nothing of the sort in the first three – aside from one or two things in The Curse of the Black Pearl, which were so inexplicit that it wasn’t an issue -, and so the addition of it in On Stranger Tides is an unwelcome novelty. Why do they think that incorporating this sort of thing into movies will somehow earn the attention of millions of viewers? Hasn’t movie history shown that the sexually inexplicit movies, like The Lord of the Rings, are the most popular? People value beautiful qualities in movies, and will remember films that are true and moral, more so than those that allude to sexual immorality at every turn.

Those are the kind of movies I like to watch: The ones that I will remember for their truth and beauty; the ones that I want to buy on DVD and watch again, over, and over, and over. PotC 4 was not one of these. It was shallow, done in poor taste, and, in my humble opinion, ruined the “Jack Sparrow formula” that made the first so successful. I just didn’t like it. If others did, I’m glad; I’m always happy for those who find something likable in a movie!

2 1/2 stars.

But the music is still awesome!!

In Christ,

Ryan

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2 Comments

  1. June 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I liked it 😀

    …..most of it.

  2. ryan4143 said,

    June 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    The review, or the movie? 😀


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