Monday, June 6, 2011

Movie Reviews: Pirates of the Carribbean 4 - On Stranger Tides

Long after most thought, and wished, the franchise was dead, Jack Sparrow returns for yet another shot at big screen success.  But does he find it, or is success for the Pirates of the Caribbean series as elusive as the fabled fountain of youth?

It could have just been a fairly clever way to end an otherwise mindless blockbuster, but as On Stranger Tides reveals the reference to the fountain of youth was actually a set up for the next movie.  Quite clever, considering the set up could either just stand on its own, or be used to lead in to the next movie.  Either way, it works.

With a rotten tomatoes ranking of 33%, and poor critical response from every critic worth the name, things are not looking good for Pirates of the Caribbean.  And with the best comment being that it is mindless fun, but still too long, it would be absolute suicide for any critic's reputation to say otherwise.

Well, I'm still going to have to take the unpopular opinion on this one.  Things is, I enjoyed watching this movie.  Will I watch it again?  Probably, it's one of those movies I can watch with family while working on my laptop.  Is it my favorite movie ever?  No, not even close.  Did I like it more than the only other movie I've really gone to see this season, Thor?  Well, it had the same kind of awkward romance, which was offset by the much better written quasi romance between Jack and Angelica.

Yes, this was a long movie, but personally I never really noticed the length.  In the post-Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, I've adapted to increasing film lengths.  Would cutting it down in length have made for a better movie?  Maybe.  Was there a lot that wasn't explained?  Most definitely (how did the mermaid suddenly grow legs?)  I'd make a Little Mermaid joke, but I think Ebert made the joke first.

Personally, and feel free to disagree with me, I thought this movie had a lot going for it.  Jack was of course Jack, and that's plenty to sell a movie to me.  But there was a lot that could have been cut out, and not necessarily for time reasons, just because the movie worked just fine without them.

First off, the zombies.  In Curse of the Black Pearl the skeletons were a big deal.  Here, besides a few throwaway lines, and one stabbing scene, the zombies never have an actual impact.  They could have easily been replaced by competent and loyal sailors for all the effect they had on the movie.

And Blackbeard really was far too underwhelming for the legendary status afforded the name.  He was pretty much just a generic villain.  This is the guy who reportedly married underaged girls and then gave them to his crew.  I think a lot more could have been done with him, but I suppose that would have been too dark for Disney.  (Not that I blame them, I'm not saying I want to see Blackbeard portrayed as depravedly as he really was, I'm just saying we could have used a bit more for than just dropping the name.  Sure he kills people, but all pirates do that, so his reputation is based on his magic sword?  Don't get me wrong, it's a nice sword, but was that really meant to be it?  We really needed more of a reason to hate him).

Despite the problems, this really was an enjoyable movie.  It could have been better, but it isn't as bad as people say it is.  The characters feel real, and for me at least that is enough.  I also like the ambiguity about the romantic subplot between the mermaid and the priest.  Did she just murder him at the end, or is it true about mermaid kisses letting you breathe under water.  The movie doesn't answer this, and personally I think that's a great way to end such an odd romance.

In the end, I went in expecting this movie to be bad, and maybe that is why I didn't think it was so terrible.  Just like unreasonable expectations can ruin a movie, lowered expectations can reveal a movie that is just enjoyable enough.  Too bad that didn't work with The Last Airbender, no amount of negative hype could save that one.


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