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Movie Review: “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 5/20/2011. Here is a spoiler-free review of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Read on and see if it's worth checking out.

Theatrical Release: 5/20/2011. Here is a spoiler-free review of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Read on and see if it's worth checking out.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Can Captain Jack Sparrow Cheat Death?

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has a new objective on his mission to cheat death. This time, he aims to discover the Fountain of Youth, but he no longer has a crew or his beloved Black Pearl. He needs a crew, and stumbles upon one in the form of an old flame. Jack has also stumbled upon an old love named Angelica (Penelope Cruz), whose father just so happens to be the infamous Blackbeard (Ian McShane).

Jack joins Angelica on her father’s ship, but Blackbeard wants the Fountain of Youth for himself. As if trying to deal with Blackbeard and his feisty daughter did not already complicate things for Jack, they are not the only ones after the legendary fountain.

The Spanish Navy is also after the fountain, and King George II (Richard Griffiths)—of Britain—has assigned a privateer, none other than Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), to beat the Spaniards to it. The race is on, and while Jack has his trusty compass in hand, tensions between him and Angelica are rising, and the ruthless Blackbeard has little patience for Jack Sparrow and his shenanigans.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Jack Sparrow & Pirate Action (+6pts)

The Beginning Action & Drawn Out Scenes (-5pts)

Angelica & Blackbeard (+8pts)

The Quest (-5pts)

Philip & Syrena (+3pts)

Barbossa & Gibbs (-2pts)


Pro: Jack Sparrow & Pirate Action (+6pts)

If you have seen the last three movies, then you know what to expect from these two things. As expected, Jack Sparrow was his usual ridiculous, opportunistic, gravity defying, and epic escape artist self. He was the character fans of the franchise will watch this movie hoping to see, and Johnny Depp delivered once again. I did not think any of his moments in this movie were very memorable, but it was more of the same, entertaining shtick that audiences have enjoyed watching in the last three movies, and they will continue to enjoy it here.

Then there was the pirate action. Much like my opinion of Jack Sparrow, there was nothing overly memorable about the action in this movie. Were there exciting action sequences? Yes. Will any of them stick with you after they are over? Not really, but most—like the mermaid battle against Blackbeard’s crew—will keep viewers engaged while they are playing out on screen.


Con: The Beginning Action & Drawn Out Scenes (-5pts)

In the beginning of the movie, there were a few climax-length action sequences. What these managed to do successfully was capture the attention of the viewer. However, I thought these scenes went on a little long, and ultimately failed to keep my interest. There was Jack’s escape, Jack’s fight against the imposter, and Jack’s attempted mutiny. Each of these action sequences were drawn out quite a bit longer than they needed to be, and I became pretty desensitized to them. A good story is like a rollercoaster, with ups and downs that keep the audience engaged and wondering what will come next. The beginning of this story was like a roller coaster that brought you up, and kept you up there for long sections, and it just was not very interesting.

Unfortunately, these action sequences were not the only scenes that felt unnecessarily drawn out. Another good example was the scene in which characters were deciding who should jump off a cliff. It was funny at first, but the filmmakers dragged it out longer than they needed to, and it was not interesting enough to keep me engaged. There were other examples, but I think you get my point. The impression that I got from all of these scenes was that the filmmakers did not have enough story to get this movie to a two hour runtime, so they just inflated a bunch of scenes beyond their limits, and I think the movie suffered for this decision.

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Pro: Angelica & Blackbeard (+8pts)

When I saw the trailer for this movie, I remember being concerned that these two characters would feel like little more than random characters introduced in a sequel, and that the movie would feel gimmicky as a result. Then I saw the movie, and I actually enjoyed both characters quite a bit. Angelica was fiery, she was feisty, and she had a heated past with Jack Sparrow, one that made her hostile toward him, despite still having reluctant feelings for him. It made her a somewhat complex character, and she became even more complex due to her connection to Blackbeard. She was his daughter, and while she seemed to be helping him, I was never quite sure if she would end up betraying him. This made the character complex and unpredictable in multiple ways, and I enjoyed the dynamic between Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp.

Then there was the always great Ian McShane, who added depth and intrigue to the ruthless, powerful, and desperate pirate legend. Blackbeard could control his ship through the telekinetic powers bestowed upon him by his sword, which made him powerful. He also wanted to extend his life through the fountain of youth, and he was desperate to reach it soon, which made him dangerous. There was more to this character than simply what I explained here, but all of it, mixed with an unsurprisingly strong performance from Ian McShane, made this a cool and compelling antagonist for this movie.


Con: The Quest (-5pts)

The last three movies were all about the characters trying to find a certain place or object. In the first movie, the characters were hunting the token in Elizabeth Swann’s possession, as well as the chest which held the rest of the them. In the second and third movies, everyone was after Davy Jones’ heart. In this movie, everyone was after the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately, the filmmakers took this pirate story formula and made it even more formulaic by making the characters have to find multiple other artifacts first. They had to find two specific chalices, as well as a mermaid’s tear.

This scavenger hunt just felt like a generic, lazy, video game story. To be clear, it did not feel like a good video game story, just one of those random, tedious side quests in which a generic character needs you to do something inconsequential, but needs you to do a bunch of other inconsequential things first, which just so happen to be on opposite sides of the map from one another. The other three movies had personal stories intertwined with the plot, which made the objectives mean something. This movie was just like watching a bunch of pirates on a lazily thrown together scavenger hunt, and I did not really care who reached the fountain first.


Pro: Philip & Syrena (+3pts)

Philip (Sam Claflin) was trying to save Blackbeard‘s soul—following the Captain and his crew wherever they went—but he was really just a good person, always trying to help others and always doing the morally right thing. In a franchise full of scheming, sleazy, backstabbing characters, this quality made him rare. Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) was your classic damsel in distress, but the added stipulation of being a mermaid made her a literal fish out of water, and her trust toward Philip was interesting. We know the classic story of mermaids and what they can do to men at see, but it was interesting to see how one responded to encountering a purely good priest. This relationship then developed, went through its hardship, and came out the other side. While it did not get a ton of screentime, I ended up being a lot more interested in their story than I thought I would be, and I was definitely more interested in them than I was with some of the other aspects of the movie.


Con: Barbosa & Gibbs (-2pts)

I definitely like both of these characters, and I liked that they were incorporated into this story. That being said, I thought the filmmakers could have done a much better job writing them into it. After everything we know about Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), having him be a privateer just seemed silly. He just seemed like the kind of character that would either go down swinging, or become a privateer whose sole intent was taking down the British Navy from the inside, but neither were the case here.

Barbossa's new role just felt wildly out-of-character, and the filmmakers very easily could have gone any other way, but he was not the only familiar face that I thought the filmmakers used poorly. There was also Gibbs (Kevin McNally), who was completely betrayed by Jack Sparrow right at the start of the movie, but he seemed to have no problems teaming up with Jack again later on. In other words, the filmmakers found the weirdest, most out-of-character way to squeeze Barbossa into this story, and they established conflict between Gibbs and Jack Sparrow that got absolutely no payoff later on in the movie. Fortunately, I liked seeing both of these characters, so I was not too bothered by either issue.

Grading Scale





























Grade: B- (80pts)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was the fourth movie in the franchise, and I thought it suffered a bit from sequelitis. Johnny Depp reprised the role of Jack Sparrow, and while he was definitely entertaining in it, I did not think the character was nearly as entertaining as he was in the last few movies. There were some funny moments, but really it was just more of the same, and none of it really stood out. This was also unfortunately the case with the pirate action, and although the action sequences kept me watching, none of them felt anywhere near as suspenseful and exciting as the action sequences in the other three movies.

The filmmakers also took a bunch of scenes—both action and non-action—and dragged them out far longer than they needed to be. This made me kind of numb and tired of the scenes, and gave me the impression the filmmakers were just trying to beef up the run time. Surprisingly, one of this movie's strengths was its new characters. I liked the inclusion of Blackbeard and Angelica. Both characters added complexity to the story, and gave interesting characters for Jack Sparrow to interact with. I also liked Philip and Syrena, and although neither character got a ton of focus, their relationship was unique and I was interested in seeing how it would play out. This movie certainly was not bad. It had its strengths and was entertaining enough while it was on, but I do not think it lived up to the same standard as the rest of the movies in the franchise.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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