Movie review – Shiver me timbers, Sparrow is back!

2011-05-21 08:36

Film: Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (Ster-Kinekor)
Director: Rob Marshall
Featuring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey
Rating: 7/10

Okay, so it’s about 30 minutes too long and I found the siren/mermaid/vampire creatures a bit of a stretch, but other than that, I was more than happy to be press-ganged into another adventure on the high seas with the dandiest pirate of them all: Captain Jack Sparrow.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides is the fourth instalment in a franchise that began with a film based on a ride at Disneyland.

Johnny Depp’s interpretation of the pirate called Sparrow has given the franchise a much longer cinematic life than one would expect from a
“pirate movie”.

The crew finally throws out the dead weight of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom – the lovebirds from the original – and has replaced them with the great Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s daughter, a woman who is truly worthy of Sparrow.

Blackbeard, the blackest-hearted pirate of them all is played with devilish eye make-up by Ian McShane, and Geoffrey Rush returns as scabby Captain Barbossa.

As always, there is a prize to be won, and this time it’s not Sparrow’s beloved ship, the Black Pearl, but a race to the Fountain of Youth.

For this chapter of the franchise, which no one really expected after the double whammy finale of Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, director Gore Verbinski is replaced by Rob Marshall, but the writing team remains largely in place.

But the film doesn’t suffer for the change of director.

Instead, Marshall, the man behind Chicago and Nine, brings a new energy to the franchise.

Marshall’s choreography background stands him in good stead, especially in the film’s obligatory “pirates escaping from the gallows” chase scene, and the wonderfully fun and nimble swordplay between Depp and Cruz.

In fact, the film is full of playful fight scenes and ludicrous escapes.

The ubiquitous 3D is again largely unnecessary, especially as the makers have seen fit to try to pander to the technology creating some scenes, seemingly, only so that something can fly out of the screen at the audience. I would guess it’s as much fun without the third dimension.

My biggest reservation though is the introduction of the flesh-eating mermaids. Fans of forlorn little Ariel look away now.

The viciousness of the creatures makes it hard to buy the growing love between one of them and a missionary aboard Blackbeard’s ship.

The unlikely lovers are played by two Hollywood unknowns – Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey – who I suspect have been set up in this film for either their own spin-off or the fifth film in the franchise.

All in all, Sparrow fans will find his foppish ways intact, the action at sea fast and fun, and the humour spot on.

Cruz is a great foil for Depp and it’s hard not to raise your anchor and let the far-fetched tale whisk you where it will. 

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