Sunday, May 15, 2011

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: On Stranger Tides - Adrift on Shallow Tides

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: On Stranger Tides (fantasy adventure in 3D)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Sam Claflin and Geoffrey Rush
Director: Rob Marshall
Screenplay by: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Time: 135 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Depp, McShane and Cruz in shallow waters

AVAST THERE, YE SWABS! With a new director (Rob Marshall replacing Gore Verbinski), a new villain (Ian McShane as Blackbeard) and sans two of its lead stars (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley), the POTC franchise is indeed sailing into Stranger Tides. In fact, after the Verbinski trilogy that ended At World's End, this fourth instalment looks like it could use some rejuvenation - hence its plot about a quest for the mythic Fountain of Youth.

However, while the pace is supposed to build up to a climax, On Stranger Tides seems to start off fast and frivolous - but gradually slackens in pace and content right to its ending.

THE DRIFT: When the movie opens, we find Capt Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) landlubbing in London - and in search of a ship to skipper. However, he learns that someone is impersonating him and is busy recruiting a crew in a race against the Spaniards to look for the fountain of youth. At one of these recruiting stations, Jack runs into his father (Keith Richards!) and old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz).

After the requisite sword play, drinking, looting and chases, Jack finds himself on board Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, with Angelica as first mate! Besides the Spanish, a certain one-legged captain (Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa) is also looking for the said fountain - on behalf of the king of England. However, before they can reach the fountain, they must face a bevy of mesmerising men-eating mermaids and procure a tear from one of them, so as to put into effect the power of everlasting youth.

THE HOWZIT: Unlike the previous movies, which had heavily-computerised creatures like Bill Nighy's Davy Jones, this one is less of a monster show. However, Depp still wears heavy eye shadow and is back in his usual wacky self as Capt Sparrow, having an audience with King George (Richard Griffiths) and even smooching Judi Dench before setting out to sea. Yes, it is ho-ho-ho and a bottle of fun in Merry Ole England and the pace slackens when the narrative sets sail. Well, at least until we get to the part about the ravenous mermaids, anyway.

Cruz takes over from Knightley as female lead but while the senorita can be as feisty as they come, the romantic angle is undeveloped. Instead she keeps the audience guessing as to whether she is the real daughter of Blackbeard. The romance factor comes in a subplot about an earnest missionary (Sam Claflin) and a captured mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Syrena, pictured). The swashbuckling department isn't that well stocked either.

The fights look contrived and the movie lacks tension and suspense. The most 'violent' sequences are those concerning the mermaids - and they don't seem as menacing as they are enigmatic and fetching (with their chests well out of view, of course).

Among the cast, Rush is the most entertaining as Barbossa; Cruz earns her keep as the delectable Angelica but McShane seems to have little to do except look fierce and frightful and occasionally kill someone.

THE LOWDOWN: It's like the Pirates drifting on Shallow Tides.


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