Eight years ago when I saw a preview for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie come out, I peed myself just a little. As a child, I loved the ride, the song, and the general idea of being a pirate, so I couldn't wait for the movie to come out. Still, in the back of my mind, I was aware of what Disney does to movies, so I didn't have too high of expectations. The movie turned out to be what all us kids inside always dreamt about: buccaneers, swashbuckling swordplay, daring rescues, romance and adventure on the high seas... Plus Johnny Depp.
Of course it had it minor hiccups, Orlando Bloom's character was, for lack of better words, a complete douche, and two men managed to pull a capsized dingy with a giant air bubble underwater... somehow. It still was a good movie and it had a decent and easy to follow plot: Cursed Aztec gold, undead pirates, young love, and the quintessential villainous pirate Captain Barbosa, as played masterfully by Geoffrey Rush. I didn't even mind the CGI. But after going from feats of semi-plausibility (often explained by supernatural conditions in the first Pirates) to Jack somersaulting from across a ravine while strapped to a pole and his knee caps somehow don't launch into the stratosphere... To seeing how many laws of physics can we break while countless pirates swing between two ships circling a Maelstrom to cross swords with immortal monsters while simultaneously performing a wedding--I didn't have that high of expectations for the fourth installment.
With this in mind, an old friend and I went see the midnight showing. That said, I was still let down. The elements are all there, the familiar musical score by Hans Zimmer, the iconic characters like Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbosa, Master Gibbs are there help you feel at home, but it is like returning home after you left for college... At first you are nostalgic, but then you realize it is just the remnants of an era... long gone. The movie is about Captain Jack Sparrow and seemingly everybody else's quest for the Fountain of Youth, as you might have guessed, it comes off contrived and convoluted, even more so than the second and third movies, but without Bill Nighy (Davy Jones) to offer up an intriguing antagonist.
Instead you have the dreaded Blackbeard (Ian McShane) whose most interesting scene is his introduction where he comes out with burning hemp wicks in his beard, something the historical Edward Teach was known for. Then he points his sword which apparently animates the ropes of the ship, which is never explained why or how, and turns them against the crew. Teach also has magic voodoo powers and turns his crew into zombies that can't be killed, which like the sword and why I paid $11 to see this movie, has no explanation.
Penelope Cruz plays the daughter Blackbeard could give exactly two flying shits about, and is a stereotypical hot tempered and traitorous Latin bitch, unlike every other movie I have ever seen her in. And to fill the slot of the obligatory douche character, a slot previously filled by Orlando Bloom, is a two dimensional missionary played by some jack off I am too lazy to look up, who, incidentally, is trying to save Black Beard's soul. The only cool element of the movie is that they portrayed mermaids as what they were in the minds of the ancient greeks: monsters. Of course, Disney finds a way to ruin that by having one of the mermaids fall in love with Massengill boy in an onscreen romance that an upwards of maybe three people in the theatre gave a shit about.
I found myself wondering when it was going to be over and my friend almost fell asleep. And most tellingly, at the end of the movie no one in the audience clapped. All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a movie you might want to see at matinee or on Blu-Ray. I give it a C-