You know when two excited, creative people get together and try and work a project? They’ll throw ideas out, write them down, keep everything flowing, never rejecting a single idea. At some stage this will get trimmed down and drafted again and again until it resembles something lean, tight and, well, good – like the first Pirates film. If the drafting process isn’t done right, then the film will become bloated, sloppy, unbalanced and will feel like two excited, creative people getting together and writing down every single idea they can think of. Which happens to be the best way of describing Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
‘What if Jack Sparrow is off looking for the Fountain of Youth?’
This film continues the narrative brought up at the end of the previous one, with Johnny Depp’s always-reliable Jack Sparrow struggling to locate the mythical fountain that grants eternal life. Up against Sparrow is his long time nemesis Captain Barbarossa (Geoffrey Rush), who has managed to lose a leg, the Black Pearl and his credibility as he now works for the Royal Navy. There are also some Spaniards searching for the Fountain, but they only appear once every half hour, so you’ll quickly forget about them.
‘What if Jack Sparrow escapes custody and goes on a massive chase through 18th century London?’
It’s hard to choose what to start with when dissecting Pirates 4: More Booty, More Bounty as there’s so much in here. Chase sequences, sword fights, mermaid attacks, balancing ships on cliffs, rope swinging and even zombies are all crammed into a hodgepodge mixture of nonsense that ensures the running time strains at the two and a half hour mark.
‘What if Blackbeard controls a crew of zombies and his own ship just by waving his hand and what if his ship can spew fire?’
Almost as if the filmmakers are aware at how painfully long the movie is, they’ve made sure that there’s an action sequence every ten minutes. While all the action set-pieces are very good, you can’t help but become aware that it’s a cheap diversionary tactic to disguise the film’s running time in an attempt to make the time fly by. It doesn’t work. Empty your bladder before you go in.
‘What if there are mermaids and they’re incredibly beautiful and really deadly, all except for one who falls in love with a human for some reason?’
While Pirates 4: Remember How Great Johnny Depp Is? succeeds in the enormous action department, it’s the characters that really trip up the film. Naturally, Sparrow is the one guiding light that will have the audience just interested enough to keep watching, but all the other characters are flat, faceless entities that solely exist to make crap jokes or spout endless reams of exposition to set up the next action bit. Penelope Cruz makes an appearance as a woman from Jack’s past who hates him or loves him or something. There’s a priest – no, that’s literally his entire character, a priest – who spouts God-related stuff for a while. The saving grace is the mighty Ian McShane, who, like Alan Rickman before him, threatens to completely outshine the film’s actual star. In fact, if Blackbeard had a little more depth for McShane to work with, this would be his film.
‘What if Jack Sparrow gets captured by the Spanish and has to escape by swinging on a rope up a series of trees?’
The action is good, the characters are bland and the vast majority of the film is almost completely forgettable. That’s pretty much all there is to say about Pirates 4: Sail Ho For Glory – it looks good, but it’s bland and empty. A lot like Penelope Cruz, really.