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Just when you thought the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy was finished, Disney pulled a George Lucas and continued the franchise. This time around, there’s no Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Naomie Harris, or most of Jack Sparrow’s pirate crew. This film would be just Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, and a bunch of new characters.
So how does this film fare? Let’s find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie opens up to a couple of Spanish fishermen on a fishing boat who catch something out of the ordinary in their nets.
They quickly transport the man to the Spanish…castle and tell the main agent there that the man was murmuring something about Ponce de León and the Fountain of Youth while clutching what appears to be a book.
The agent assumes that this man has somehow discovered the Fountain of Youth and decides that the Spaniards must set sail to find it before others do. And if you’re wondering who the heck this man is that was found in the sea and what how he even discovered the Fountain of Youth, well…don’t worry, we never know! In fact, we never see this man or the fishermen ever again!
Heck, we barely see the Spaniards throughout the entire movie! So whom do we see instead? The star that holds the franchise together, of course!
Jack Sparrow, played once again by Johnny Depp, is back in town in an attempt to save his mate, Gibbs, played once again by Kevin McNally, from being hanged. Apparently, the townspeople have caught Gibbs…somehow…and mistake him to be Jack Sparrow…somehow…and want to see him hanged…somehow.
Nevertheless, through some theatricals, Jack manages to rescue Gibbs and they escape without a hitch…well, almost!
Jack’s captured and taken to King George II, played by the late Richard Griffiths, who tells Jack that the Catholic Spaniards have found the location of the so-called Fountain of Youth and that he wants Jack to help the British find it first since Jack possesses knowledge of the Fountain of Youth’s whereabouts (see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End). He even offers to give Jack a crew, a ship, and even a captain. Enter Barbossa, played once again by Geoffrey Rush.
It appears that Barbossa has “betrayed” his pirate ways and joined the British as a legitimate privateer…something that the Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End would never have even thought of doing. So, why has he switched teams now? Well, we’re not entirely sure. But we do know that he’s lost the ship, The Black Pearl, as well as one of his legs.
Disgusted by the idea that Barbossa has changed his colors and lost The Black Pearl, Jack declines the King’s offer, and escapes from the palace in the antic-filled way that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing of him.
While fleeing, Jack comes upon a tavern in which he sees an imposter pretending to be him in a guise to hire a crew for a voyage. Annoyed once more, Jack fights this imposter in the tavern until he realizes who the imposter is: a woman from his past, Angelica, played by Penélope Cruz.
Apparently, Jack and Angelica had a thing going back in the day, until Jack left her while she was ready to marry him. Why are we men always the bad guys? I can’t accept that!
Anyway, the tavern is soon attacked by British soldiers, but Jack and Angelica manage to escape, although Jack loses his consciousness in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Gibbs, who didn’t manage to escape from the palace, is taken to have his hanging sentence carried out until Barbossa makes him an offer. Gibbs possesses the map leading to the Fountain of Youth (the one he and Jack got from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), so Barbossa offers Gibbs his freedom in exchange for the map.
Gibbs responds by burning the map and countering with another offer. Apparently, Gibbs believes that he’s memorized the entire map and offers himself as a guide to Barbossa on the King’s voyage to the Fountain of Youth.
Now how the heck did Gibbs manage to memorize the entire map as well as decrypt all of its puzzles, something that took the other, more experienced pirates forever to do in the previous movie?
Back to Jack, once he regains his consciousness, he finds himself aboard a ship…not as the Captain, but as a petty worker! He quickly realizes that he’s been taken prisoner aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the infamous, Blackbeard, the pirate whom all pirates fear!
Angelica is apparently Blackbeard’s daughter and was trying to get a crew to find the Fountain of Youth as her father is dying and she needs the Fountain’s water to save him. Yet, a legend says that a one-legged man will kill Blackbeard. So, is Blackbeard dying? Or is he just taking preventative measures with the Fountain’s water? Oh, well!
After getting tired of working on the ship, Jack has a secret meeting one night with some of the other workhands [for you OUAT fans, good ol’ Peter Pan is one of the workhands]
and tells them that they should stage a mutiny and take over the ship. And being such a motivational speaker as he is, the crew agrees and starts taking over the ship until the mutiny stops by the entrance of the great Blackbeard himself, played masterfully by Ian McShane.
And if you thought that nobody could play a pirate after Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, then you’ll be proven wrong as Ian McShane “OWNS” the role, as they say! His Blackbeard is both authoritative and fearsome, both calm and collected, and is basically a character whom I wish was in the previous movies.
Anyway, how does Blackbeard react to the mutiny? He uses magical powers to bring the ropes on the ship to life and tie up the men with it!
How the heck does he know how to do that? Well, he’s Blackbeard!
But after some pleading from his daughter and talk of having his soul saved by a Christian missionary prisoner aboard, played by pre-Finnick Sam Claflin,
Blackbeard frees the men and kills only one of them.
He also forces Jack Sparrow to guide them towards the Fountain of Youth by torturing him through a voodoo doll shaped like Jack that he just seems to have lying around.
As they proceed on their journey, they stop at Whitecap Bay one night, for a peculiar reason: to capture a mermaid.
You see, the way the Fountain of Youth works is that you have to get two golden chalices from Ponce de León’s ship, fill each with water from the Fountain, and put a mermaid’s tear into one of the chalices. Then, you get two people to drink from one chalice each. The one who drinks from the chalice with the mermaid’s tear gets the life of the other one. This complicated ritual just goes to show that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!
So, now Blackbeard and his crew have to procure a mermaid’s tear. They lay nets and traps for the mermaids who come out of the water quickly and appear gorgeous as any mermaid should appear,
yep, in the POTC universe, mermaids are fierce, evil, carnivorous devil-fish! Makes one think of Ariel differently!
The crew tries to fight off the mermaids and in the aftermath, they manage to drive the mermaids away, capture one, and bring it aboard the ship. Why not just get her to cry, collect the tear, and throw her overboard? Well, apparently mermaids’ tears spoil easily and they need to have the tear “fresh”, kinda like a good Rotten Tomatoes’ score.
After having captured her, they then go off to obtain the chalices from Ponce de León’s ship, which is quite inconveniently placed teetering over a cliff. Jack is sent to get it only to find Barbossa there already looking for the same chalices.
They both realize that the chalices are gone and that the Spanish have beaten them to the chase. So what next? Attack the Spanish camp, of course, and retrieve the chalices.
Not long after, everyone meets up at the Fountain of Youth: Jack, Blackbeard and his crew, Barbossa, Barbossa’s English crew, and the Spanish. It’s explained that Barbossa never cared about finding the Fountain or serving King George, but instead wanted revenge on Blackbeard as he was the one who took The Black Pearl and his leg from him.
The climax ends with a huge shootout between all these people, the destruction of the Fountain of Youth, Blackbeard being tricked into giving his life to Angelica while being stabbed dead by Barbossa,
Angelica being shanghaied on an island by Jack after telling her that he loves her and always have/will, Barbossa becoming pirate captain of Blackbeard’s ship, and Jack and Gibbs walking along a beach trying to figure out how to get The Black Pearl out of a bottle that Blackbeard trapped it in.
And that was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and what can I say?
It’s definitely a much smaller-scaled movie than the original trilogy in terms of story and thrills and the filmmakers knew that they couldn’t top the trilogy. Nevertheless, they knew people would go see it and it was a massive hit making over a billion dollars at the box office worldwide!
But even as its own film, it doesn’t have much to offer to make it necessarily “good”. Yes, the acting is pretty good, for the most part. And the special effects are good.
But, the many plotholes, prolonged scenes, and sloppy writing are just too many and too ubiquitous to ignore. With that said, it’s worth seeing at least once if you want to be a true fan and watch the entire franchise, but don’t expect Pirates of the Caribbean: The Secret of the Black Pearl or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, for that matter.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 23/35 = 65.71% (D) !
The next review will be posted on September 1st.