Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth film in Disney’s Pirates franchise, and is considered to be a light reboot of the series. It is the first Pirates movie to be directed by Rob Marshall, replacing the original trilogy director Gore Verbinski. This fourth film once again sees iconic pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) raveled in another seafaring adventure with high stakes.
Although the movie continues one of the stories established in the previous film, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, it is notably removed from the rest of the series. There are far more new characters than familiar ones, a decidedly different tone, but still a combination of classic pirate antics and action. Many would argue that the Pirates franchise lost some steam after a few sequels, so does On Stranger Tides boost the franchise back to its original glory?
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The Movie Review
On Stranger Tides picks up some time after the previous movie, with pirate-extraordinaire Jack Sparrow attempting to rescue his first mate Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from a court in London. Despite his best efforts, Sparrow and Gibbs are captured by authorities but manage to strike a deal with King George (Richard Griffiths) himself.
Teaming up with their old pirate pal Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who now works with the royal military as a private contractor, the crew set sail to discover the fabled Fountain of Youth. Along the way, Jack Sparrow runs into an old flame named Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who also happens to be the daughter of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). With a fleet of Spanish rivals at their back, every ship must race to their destination or lose their chance at immortality.
When compared to the runtime of other Pirates flicks, On Stranger Tides is significantly shorter. That said, the movie struggles with pacing, often due to a bogged down plot filled with uninspired characters.
Where other Pirates movies filled these narrative holes with big-budget action scenes, On Stranger Tides is somewhat lacking in the explosive department. Instead of going for a dark and exceptionally violent tone as in the second and third movies, On Stranger Tides feels far more fantastical, with cartoon-like fights and chase sequences.
There are some pretty cool sword fights, along with a handful of impressive CGI set-pieces, but you won’t find any ship battles, plank-walking, or other more traditional pirate action. The movie also struggles with its tone (as previous Pirates films have), resulting in a movie that’s violent in some places, while wacky and aloof in others.
The Bottom Line
If you enjoyed the previous three Pirates films, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is worth a viewing. Despite the lack of classic characters like Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, it’s still fun to see Jack Sparrow and company set out on the high seas. Unfortunately, instead of offering a compact tale of pirating, On Stranger Tides opts for a needlessly crowded story with too many characters.
The action is entertaining at base value but pales in comparison to the uproarious and climactic scenes in previous films.
Luckily, On Stranger Tides doesn’t veer too far off course, keeping the jolly spirit of the franchise alive. If you’re watching in 3D, there are a few gimmicky scenes to enhance the viewing, but otherwise, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is one of the weaker entries in the series. That said, if you’re looking for a modern swashbuckling adventure, the Pirates franchise is still the best in the business.