Cannes: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 4’ Review

May 20, 2011, 12:40 a.m.

There are three certainties when dealing with this swashbuckling family-fun film. Firstly, the film is going to plunder enough pockets this weekend to have the option for a fifth film. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise has grossed over $2.5 billion worldwide. Secondly, Johnny Depp is going to be delivering the same hilarious and fun-drunken swagger of a performance. (It’s not a complaint, just inevitability.) And thirdly, this quasi-reboot will never live up to the first film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sends Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow on a quest for the fountain of youth. Along the way, he runs into the dread pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Capt. Jack and Angelica meet under less than ideal circumstances, as former lovers now thrown together by circumstance. Cruz holds her own in a sexy, confident and extremely physically demanding role. While she planned on doing most of her own stunt work, due to her pregnancy, her sister filled in for some of the shoot.

As the film rollicks along, nothing feels new or exciting. Even with new and flashier director Rob Marshall at the helm, the movie falls back into an eerily comfortable familiarity. The bombastic and inspiring Hans Zimmer score feels like you never stopped hearing it, and the lavish sets and Jack Sparrow’s witty one-liners are absolutely everywhere.

Where the film actually feels a little empty is the lack of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. They grounded the film with their outsiders’ perspectives, not having been fully indoctrinated into the pirate life until the third installment. In this film, the romance is more of an afterthought, and there’s a hole where Bloom and Knightley used to be.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is the use of 3-D. When a film requires oversized glasses to make cannonballs burst out of the screen at the audience, everything always seems about two shades darker. This isn’t a huge problem in most movies, where the action is taking place in broad daylight against vibrant colors. However, the majority of the action in “On Stranger Tides” takes place at night. Suddenly, all of the fun action is masked in a haze of darkness. Not to mention, the 3-D also seems to be the product of marketing necessity, rather than any original, creative impulses. There is never a moment where viewers are actually excited by the effect.

Aside from a couple of ridiculous action sequences and a few too many swings from a chandelier, the action is constantly engaging and thrilling. If you are a fan of the other “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, then you will certainly fall for this one as well. It definitely is an adequate successor; however, it might not be worth the price of the 3-D glasses.

And for those hardcore Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow fans, the last line is one you’ve been waiting for since the first movie and feels like the perfect ending.

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