“That be the cold hand of fate I feel down my nape.”
With each of the previous Pirates Of Caribbean films pulling in over a billion dollars in total revenue, it was indeed the cold hand of fate that determined the franchise would not end. Like Captain Jack Sparrow himself, this franchise isn’t going to be easy to kill. It’s true that the last two films, the third in particular, were rather universally scorned by the critics. But they still pulled in a boatload of money and quite honestly weren’t near as bad as all of that. Like the theme park attraction that the franchise was named after, you have to consider these movies as rides. The only intention is to entertain. And by all accounts they’ve been doing a pretty good job of that for several years now. Even when the rest of the supporting cast bowed out of the franchise, it isn’t finished yet, and there’s no indication that the voyage is nearing its end any time soon.
It appears that a certain Captain Jack Sparrow is in England to recruit a new crew. His mission this time is the famed Fountain of Youth. Word has spread near and far that the infamous pirate is assembling the crew. Of course, this is news to one man in particular … Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) himself. ‘Tis true he’s in England, but merely to spring his former crewmate Gibbs (McNally). He’s caught in the King’s snare, but it isn’t justice the British royalty wants from the pirate. The King wants Jack to partner with his old nemesis Captain Barbossa (Rush) to beat the Spaniards to the fountain. But the King isn’t the only one after the prize. Jack’s old fiancee Angelica (Cruz) is masquerading as Jack to put together a crew for the same purpose. She wants to get to the fountain for the sake of her doomed father, the feared Blackbeard (McShane) himself. Of course, you know Jack’s going to play both sides for his own ends, and we’re in for another fantastical high-seas adventure that features mermaids, zombies, and other supernatural forces along the way.
There’s a lot to love about the new entry in the franchise. Gone are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, but Penelope Cruz honestly has more chemistry with Johnny Depp than the other two had. We do get Barbossa back, and I have to tell you that after watching The King’s Speech, I’ve developed a whole new respect for actor Geoffrey Rush. Also new to the cast is Ian McShane as the charismatic Blackbeard himself. If you’ve been to Disney World recently, you’ll find he was already added to the attraction there before the movie even hit the box office. There’s more than enough dynamic acting at play here to keep you from even thinking about who is gone. It’s true that this one features far more of Johnny Depp than the others. But that really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. His take on Captain Jack Sparrow will always be at the heart of why we love these movies. And to think that at one time Disney was so unhappy with the flamboyant performance they considered both replacing him and offering subtitles to the first film because they were afraid that audiences wouldn’t understand what he was saying.
There are some very nice set pieces and scenes to be found here. The posters teased you about the mermaids, and it’s quite an interesting moment in the film. There’s a bit of a distracting story of a budding romance between one of the characters and a captured siren. The final showdown at the Fountain itself is a pretty big climax that offers all of the swashbuckling fights and a great showdown between Barbossa and Blackbeard. The set itself is unexpected, and the end reminds me of something you might expect in an Indiana Jones film. Truthfully, this film absolutely beats that last effort.
The story is actually the first in the franchise to be taken from a non-original source. The filmmakers adapted the novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. The story was retained and reworked to include Captain Jack and the rest of the film’s motley crew. What’s more the franchise has returned to the idea of a single story as they did on the first film. While there is absolutely the open ending and a fifth film is already being written, this one will stand on its own. The truth is, the franchise hasn’t been better since that first film.
On Stranger Tides is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25-30 mbps. As expected, the image delivers pretty much on par with the earlier films. Colors are bright when intended, as in the wonderful jungle set pieces. But mostly things are dark and dingy. That’s where texture and good black levels take over. Nowhere is the image better, however, than when you see the ocean in full sunlight. You can taste the salt air.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is both full and dynamic. Subs reach out and grab you when called for. The Hans Zimmer score teases you with the inspiring tones of the first film. The music moves you through the waves with refreshing clarity. Dialog is clear most of the time. Yeah, Disney had a point, and you might struggle to make out every word Depp says.
There’s an Audio Commentary with director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca. This one is mostly fluff with little in the way of on-set stories or technical information.
Bloopers Of The Caribbean: (3:29)
LEGO Pirates Of The Caribbean: (5:16) These are spots for the toy that tell very short stories from the film.
Disney Second Screen: You can synch the film with another portable device that offers extra content as you watch.
There is all of the high-seas adventure that you loved so much in the first film. Depp demands attention and pays dividends for your notice. He’s settled in much more, and I actually found the character a bit less flamboyant than in previous films. Jack has matured a little, and it bodes well for the series. That doesn’t mean all of the charm and wit have been stripped away. Rather, it’s all the more effective this time around. If you’ve stayed away from the series for the last couple of adventures, I really think you missed the boat, or at least the point. But judging by the box office numbers once again, plenty of us are still willing to sign on board for a Pirate adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow. “Watch. Have a drink. Place some wagers…”
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