Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2011. Walt Disney Presents, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Moving Picture Company. Screen story and Screenplay by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, based on characters created by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, suggested by the novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. Cinematography by Dariusz Wolski. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Music by Hans Zimmer. Production Design by John Myhre. Costume Design by Massimiliano Amicucci, Penny Rose. Film Editing by David Brenner, Wyatt Smith.
What better way to celebrate three multi-billion dollar-grossing films than to just keep making more of them. This time the producers have at least recognized where the money is by jettisoning deadweight cast members Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, retaining the delicious silliness of Johnny Depp (who still seems to be having a wonderful time) and replacing Knightley with the much more delicious Penelope Cruz. Improving greatly on the bombastic last chapter At World’s End, this fourth installment in the series sees Spanish and British crowns searching the ends of the earth in the quest of finding the fountain of youth: whoever drinks from its waters, with the help of a mermaid’s tear, shall gain a multitude of years to live. Sparrow is co-opted into the crew of the nefarious Blackbeard (Ian McShane) while the Spanish armada and Geoffrey Rush‘s Barbossa, now a member of the royal British fleet, are never far behind, all three crews in search of the fountain and determined to get there first. What this entry does better than the last three is its taking what was previously a jumbled, rambling narrative and streamlining it down to one single adventure with many tangents; it’s never too difficult to follow the plot and, for the most part, there are very few sequences that are out of place or exist solely for the purposes of showing off the enormous effects budget. Where director Rob Marshall, filling in for the already established (and undeserving) Gore Verbinski, falters is in a shocking lack of energy: the man who made Chicago beat to the rhythm of dancing feet suddenly has no elegance when it comes to directing fights or editing giant action sequences. Depp swings from chandeliers and the camera awkwardly follows him, while the addition of 3D adds little to the experience. The main plot isn’t quite riveting enough to make up for this lack of fun and, while Depp’s Jack Sparrow is a true delight of cinematic character creation, he has appeared too many times for the discovery of his quirks to keep you interested. Even a strangely vicious sequence with unpredictable mermaids fails to give the sense of wonder it promises.