Movie:  Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Director:  Rob Marshall

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Sam Claflin, Geoffrey Rush

Jagran Rating:    (Average)

Story Line: It’s been four years since Captain Jack Sparrow last graced the silver screen and Gore Verbinski was apparently the only one smart enough to move on to better things. As Johnny Depp returns to one of his most signature roles, screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio have also returned.

At least this time the two have taken the suggestion of basing ‘On Stranger Tides’ upon the 1987 novel by Tim Powers.

It's fitting that this fourth episode of the mega adventurous series is revolves around a quest for the fountain of youth. But the logic seems to be, if you're splashing out on your star, you'd better make a splash with the rest of the movie. This splashes so much its stranger tides almost drown it.

It's a sequence of ever-escalating action sequences and grand settings. At first they're stunning, then they're routine, then they're exhausting.

There is at least some new blood to power this rejuvenation exercise.

Depp has his own peculiar character, but the new twist is that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley have walked the plank and Penélope Cruz appears to be the duplicitous old flame of Jack. Being Cruz, she's Spanish and feisty, and that's about it. And fitting right in as the new villain of the piece is Ian McShane's Blackbeard – a mystically powered captain whose orange, leathery complexion suggests he's spent long years trapped in a tanning salon.

Throw in Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa (now with a peg leg), and the British and Spanish navies, and you've got something close to a piratical crazy races. Everyone's racing to get to the fountain of youth, negotiating dangerous land and fantastical episodes and stitching each other up.

The new-faced monsters are some cruel but seductive mermaids, which are rather cruelly hunted, slaughtered and tortured along the way. Worse still, everyone else is so tricky and self-centred and double-crossing, it's not always clear who to root for, who's in cahoots with whom, or what anyone's going to do if/when they actually find the sacred fountain.

The only virtuous role model is a brawny clergyman, played by Sam Claflin.
In terms of visual show, it almost goes without saying the film irregularly delivers. There are vertiginous 3D jump up and down ships, in and out of water and over jungles, and some of the action is ingeniously choreographed.

The early scenes in 18th century London are particularly enjoyable, with Richard Griffiths as a delectably piggy George II, and Depp staging a thrilling escape on ropes and horse-drawn carriages.

But no sooner has one set piece ended; we're thrown into another one. In the brief moments of downtime there's some enjoyable comedy and even some useful dialogue but it's soon drowned out by another chase or swordfight or race to get something that will help them get another thing or stop someone else getting the thing they want.

As previous franchise-resuscitation attempts have shown (Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Rambo, Shrek, etc), it's difficult to come back with a part four after a long absence. The temptation to do something fresh is often outweighed by the fear of losing whatever it was that made it successful in the first place. This tries to do both, but ends up just trying too hard.

Thumbs Up: The film makes an adventurous departure from the traditionally benign view about mermaids. Marshall and his team make good use of 3D in the exterior sequences so that London landmarks and rocky islands look magnificent.
At 136 minutes, the film is marginally the shortest in the series and it profits from that. Cruz is a wonderful addition and a teaser following the credits augers well for more so long as Depp continues to get as much enjoyment from playing the role as he gives to his audience.

Thumbs Down: This episode feels like the fourth film in a trilogy, wheezing along when it should leap, relying on our affection for recurring characters rather than taking us on a bold new journey of discovery. There are plenty of sword fights, chase scenes, mermaids, and bumbling British soldiers, but those knockabout scenes don't fill the movie with the headlong momentum of the earlier entries. The marquee attraction, of course, is Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, and audiences will forgive the film almost anything for a glimpse of his gold-toothed grin. Depp still radiates vitality and prankish humour.

An adventure film based on a roller-coaster ride shouldn’t feel like work. It should be exciting and quick and weightless. Yet despite this smashing bunch, Jack putting the 'arr' in Sparrow and his eyebrow-singeing chemistry with Angelica, who leaves all spell bound, the film disappoints because of its complete lack of ambition. But still Johnny Depp as all time favorite Jack Sparrow captured the audience eyes.

JPN/Bureau