Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
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The two previous Pirates of the Caribbean movies were works that were overflowed with creativity and that were not afraid to bet on the absurd. They were nowhere near perfect; on the contrary, they were flawed in many respects – the second was too long and the third too pretentious – yet they all managed to entertain. On Strager Tides, however, is a tiresome and nonsensical movie that does not even appear to be the work of the same screenwriters.
From the initial trilogy, the movie to point out the mistakes made in On Strager Tides is undoubtedly the third. At World’s End was criticized because of the unnecessary and exaggerated complexity of its plot: there were too many characters, four hundred twists per minute and so many consecutive betrayals that it was practically impossible to follow in some moments. It was a convoluted mess. But a fun convoluted mess nonetheless. Neglecting this, the writers, Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, seem to have taken these complaints very seriously, since this fourth installment of the franchise is exactly the opposite of the previous one.
The plot is basic to the extreme and never manages to evolve: Jack Sparrow, aboard Blackbeard’s pirate ship, departs in a race to the Fountain of Youth, competing against Captain Barbossa and a random Spanish fleet. During the journey, they find mermaids who act like vampires and several pretty useless zombies, and that is it. Even the number of characters is much smaller than before, since many have been cut: from the old movies, only Barbossa, Sparrow, Mr. Gibbs and the monkey are left – and their intentions are clear from the outset. The plot is too simple, not keeping many surprises or twists from the viewer, and, thus, is completely different from the previous ones.
Rossio and Elliot limit themselves so much that when they fail to keep the adventure too linear, they make the characters offer speeches full of exposition in a ridiculous attempt to explain the situation to the viewers, to the extent that characters often refer to themselves in the third person, or even start to explain the situation aloud with absolutely no one else around.
Even the villain, Blackbeard, suffers with this new direction, being completely cliché and offering very few moments of eccentricity, besides his habit of bottling real ships. The villain pales in comparison to the previous one, Davy Jones, and not even the competent Ian Mcshane manages to save him from boredom. When Blackbeard claims that he needs to kill someone occasionally to make others remember his fame and identity, viewers had long since forgotten.
And because of the obvious departure of the lead couple, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, the writers probably felt the need to include another: a priest, whose importance is only to participate in this romantic side of the movie, with a mermaid, whose “love story” with the Reverend becomes the most implausible and irritating point in the plot.
The ever-entertaining captain Jack Sparrow, the film’s raison d’être, is here infinitely more ninja than usual – the scene of the coconut climb is competing side by side with the love couple in being the most ridiculous aspect of the movie. He is now unquestionably the protagonist of the series and although the character works best as a supporting character – his gibes and jokes tend to get repetitive after a certain point – he is one of the three reasons the movie does not bore viewers to death. The second reason is Barbossa, now in the service of the king, here a character even more unpredictable than Sparrow.
And the last one is the soundtrack, composed once again by Hans Zimmer, who is practically the only one responsible for the maintenance of the gloomy and mysterious atmosphere, since the cinematography is exaggerated, leaving everything gray and covered by mist – becoming annoying instead of immersive. Now, the new director Rob Marshall, responsible for musicals like Nine and Chicago, demonstrates to not know very well how to direct action movies, failing to give a decent pace to the film, and making the combats, which are still hampered by very rapid cuts, much longer than they should be.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strager Tides was meant to be a return to the series’ roots and provide a simple and fun adventure. The problem is that they exaggerated in the simplicity. If they had added elements to the plot and developed them, then the film would have lived up to its predecessors. The way it is, however, it raises concern about the quality of the future ones.
December 04, 2018.
Orginally published in Portuguese on March 11, 2015.
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Tedd Elliot e Terry Rossio.