Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Directed By: Rob Marshall

Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, and Kevin McNally

Hollywood has a nasty habit of killing its best franchises.  Releasing sequel after sequel, they keep piling on the movies long after they've run out of worthwhile stories to tell.  In 2011 alone, there were 27 sequels.  Studios' never ending chase of the almighty dollar has programmed viewers to see most sequels these days as crap.  There are still some good sequels out there though.  Just check out Rob Marshall's fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  Though he's certainly on stranger tides, Marshall has a worthwhile story to tell.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has come to London to rescue his first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally).  His attempts fail, but he does learn that there is an impostor in the city sullying his good name.  Taken captive by the crown, Sparrow also learns that King George II (Richard Griffiths) has now tasked Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) with finding the Fountain of Youth before the Spanish do.  Barbossa, Sparrow's former first mate and nemesis, is now a privateer in the Royal Navy.  Barbossa and George II also know that Sparrow has a map leading to the fountain, and they need to get their hands on it.

Sparrow isn't so concerned about what Barbossa and the king want though.  He wants to find this impostor, so he escapes and goes to an event where the "other Jack Sparrow" is recruiting for an expedition.  He learns that the impostor is Angelica (Penélope Cruz), his former lover and daughter of the infamous pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane).  The feared pirate just also happens to be looking for the Fountain of Youth.  Sparrow is then forced aboard Blackbeard's ship to guide an expedition to the Fountain.  The journey there is rough though.  They will face zombies, mermaids, and a deadly three-way race to get to the fountain.

At this point in the series, I initially thought the franchise was getting stale.  I'm happy to admit that I was quite wrong.  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides shows that it's a pirate’s life for me.  Johnny Depp was born to play good ol' Captain Jack.  In his fourth outing as the famed pirate, he doesn't disappoint.  He brings all the charm, humor, and action we've come to love over the years.  He also brings the always delightful Geoffrey Rush back with him as Captain Barbossa.  Though not as good as Curse of the Black Pearl, On Stranger Tides takes the franchise a few steps in the right direction.

Not surprisingly, the absences of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in this installment are not heavy losses.   In fact, we have some great new additions to the cast.  Ian McShane is the perfect Blackbeard.  Every time he's on screen, he brings a menacing presence that overshadows everyone and everything else.  He's a real badass.  Penélope Cruz is also a welcome addition to the cast as Blackbeard's daughter Angelica.  She has great chemistry with Depp.  Beyond that, it's interesting to see Jack with a love interest.  In previous Pirates flicks, he's only had one lover.  That was Zoë Saldaña in the original in a minor role.

While I definitely enjoyed On Stranger Tides, the film does have a few issues.  Like any Pirates movie, the plot is a little convoluted at times.  There are some action sequences that are utterly unbelievable.  Richard Griffiths is also annoying as hell in his portrayal of George II.  I can forgive all these problems though.  I'm a sucker for some good swashbuckling action.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides shows that Captain Jack Sparrow still has some life in him.  With some vicious mermaids, a badass pirate, and a lot of rum, Rob Marshall brings us another fun-filled, action-packed adventure.  I know I'm going against everything Pirates is all about by saying this, but have a few rounds of beer during this one.  On Stranger Tides gets a 0.06% rating.