So Becky and I saw Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides. Don’t judge us. It was free. We got tickets by using those Rewards Codes that are inserts in Disney movies, specifically the ones in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Yes, that means we own those movies. Like I said, don’t judge us.
Any sort of review I could do is almost certainly too late because if the box office receipts are any indication, anyone who had any sort of even a passing interest in this film apparently went to see it already because it made a metric crap-ton of money. Despite that, I just want to share my thoughts on it anyway.
Thought #1: No need to see this on the big screen. Because the other Pirates movies were massive special effects juggernauts, there was some incentive to see them in the theater, and I regret not having seen At World’s End on the big screen, where I imagine some of the scenes might have been really awesome. (We hadn’t because Dead Man’s Chest was so abysmal we decided we would just rent At World’s End). There is nothing like this here. In fact, my rough estimate suggests that less than twenty percent of the film is spent at sea on ships. And there are no ship battles or fights, with the exception of one happening way off in the distance nearly off-screen away from all the characters. Most of the film is spent on land, in unimpressive fashion certainly not needing the big screen to enjoy.
Thought #2: I have been spoiled by watching Castle. About one-third of the way through the movie, On Stranger Tides becomes the first movie I am aware of to drop *SPOILERS* on ITSELF. Seriously. They simply tell you what is going to happen at the end. One of the characters mentions that a tertiary character on board without a real name sometimes “sees the future” and what he said (off screen and in the past) is *SPOILERS*. There is no clever plot twist, no misinterpretation of the vision, no cheating of fate, not so much as a wrinkle. They reveal what is going to happen, and then later it happens, exactly the way they tell you it is going to happen, and using the exact implement the character in question says he is going to use to do it. It’s astounding. If this were Castle, or any other mystery drama, the dropping of such an unbelievably obvious reveal could only be followed by a serious of events or unexpected angles that makes it play out not at all like one would expect. They did not do this.
Thought #3: The characters are aware of you, and they think you are stupid. Yes, you the audience. In more than one scene, characters laboriously state things that would be or are clearly obvious to all involved for no other apparent reason than to make sure the audience knows. It is doubly unnecessary because any semi-intuitive or intelligent viewer ALSO ALREADY GETS IT, thus making it REALLY AWKWARD. At one point, Captain Jack simply presents information directly to the audience, in complete absence of any other characters to speak to, and glosses it over by chalking it up to his eccentricity.
Thought #4: The secondary characters are really extras. There is a missionary in this film who is supposed to be important. Thirty seconds after leaving the theater I asked my wife if she knew that character’s name (she didn’t). I don’t know if they gave it, and if they DIDN’T, shouldn’t it have been played out a little more that NO ONE KNOWS THIS PERSON’S NAME? What becomes even more bizarre is that this nameless character is somehow aware of the name of a later secondary character who none of them had ever met, and no one had even cared about, much less asked about a name. Is that really the right name, or did Missionary Man just make one up and no one contested it? BIZARRE.
Thought #5: Penelope Cruz – WHAT?! This film suggests many things about Cruz’s character, and as far as I can tell, no matter how polar opposite any of these traits may be from each other, all of them seem to be absolutely true within the context of her character. In the exact same moment we are supposed to believe that she is a black-hearted, double-dealing, scheming wench with no redeeming qualities who is also a super-religious former convent attendee willing to sacrifice herself to redeem the soul of the most notorious pirate who ever lived. Unable to adequate express any of these conflicting character directions with conviction, she simply goes with none whatsoever.
Thought #6: I still don’t regret seeing it. Why? Well, like I said, it was free. But mainy because I think Jack Sparrow is a funny, extremely interesting character, and even if he doesn’t have the same flair and shine as in the original trilogy (this film actually seems to me toned down from PG-13 levels of scoundral-ry to an even more easygoing PG level), he is still a hoot to watch and listen to. The next movie could be called Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow Does His Laundry and I would still probably watch it at some point.
And this is the overall conclusion: if you are a Jack Sparrow fan, you will get some nice moments, and more of a fun character. But beyond that, there is NOTHING else here for you to lay your tricorn hat on, with little remaining of the original universe and setting you may have become attached to.