“REMEMBER this day as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!”
After three years since the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie, free soul pirate Captain Jack Sparrow is back on the big screen in fine form for his fourth adventure – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
This time the pirate adventure is co-ordinated by new director Rob Marshall, with screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. And of course, every pirate voyage can’t go without some sexy banter, as former buccaneer Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) is replaced by Spanish firecracker Angelica (Penélope Cruz).
But unlike the earlier instalments, there’s a lot more action taking place on dry land in this film.
On Stranger Tides is based on the novel of the same title by Tim Powers, and Captain Jack Sparrow is in London attempting to help his former sailmate Gibbs (Kevin McNally) to prison break. He is consequently arrested, and the duo create a hoax in the court of justice, and later come face to face in an unusual meeting with King George II in the palace.
Dariuz Wolski, the saga’s regular cinematographer, follows the storyline closely to capture the cityscapes and skylines of the British capital, recreating streets and the London town centre of the late 50’s for the mutinous hounding scene of Jack, Gibbs and the British army. The Oscar-winning production designer, John Myhre recreates the magic from Chicago to craft the magnificent settings and construct the 3D sword fights.
But the drama of Captain Sparrow does not stop on the British land. This time Jack is on the mission to find the fountain of youth. He is presented by typical spine-tingling obstacles with the returning of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the Spanish navy led by the deadly Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Jack is told his beloved Black Pearl was destroyed in a clash with Blackbeard. The news hits Jack and sends him on a journey of revenge, to compete with Blackbeard for the water of eternal youth.
So what’s different about Pirates of the Caribbean 4?
Instead of slotting in more filthy, slimy pirates as the saga’s staples, fantasy genre characters like mermaids have been introduced into the story to freshen the franchise. The film also makes a bold twist on the traditionally benevolent mermaids and turns them into underwater beasts.
A mermaid’s tear is essential to the secret potion of youth, which is why Blackbeard schemes to net one of them on the beachside. The one sweet-looking mermaid, Serena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) captured by Blackbeard, falls for the priest Philip (Sam Claflin).
One of the most quotable lines from the movie is definitely from Jack’s father, Captain Teague, played by Rolling Stone Keith Richards. When asked if he has ever seen the magic youth elixir, Teague points to his crinkled face and growls the killer line, “Does this look like the face of a man in possession of the spirit of eternal youth?”
Cruz makes an impressive entrance disguised as a male pirate who is exposed in a match of swordplay with Jack. She later shows her feminine flamboyant side as an irresistible woman who claims to be Blackbeard’s daughter. The vibrant intimate tension between Jack and fiery Angelica produces sparks that keep the movie entertaining.
That said, the plot feels overly drawn out at times (running time is more than two hours). But the movie still counts as theatrical gold if you consider the adventure, action and comedy – helped by lively characters and a compelling cast, splendid settings and production, Hans Zimmer’s keen effort to perfect the musical score, and Jack’s genuinely humorous yo-ho-ho.