Jack escapes the King’s grasp and flushes out the impostor, revealed to be former love interest Angelica (Cruz) and her ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, is the vessel of the pirate all pirates fear, Blackbeard (McShane).
The movie becomes a race to the fountain, but en route, elements of a ritual must be gathered in order to benefit from the water’s power – a pair of silver chalices last known in the possession of Ponce de Leon and a tear of a mermaid.
The film culminates in all parties descending on the fountain each with their own special agendas, some only revealed at the bitter end.
“On Stranger Tides” takes the best parts of the first film – some straight lifts such as the rafter duel in the Pirate’s Daughter pub that echoes Jack and Will’s duel in the blacksmith’s shop – and the second – a villain with supernatural tendencies and monstrous crew – and pulls together an entertaining adventure. Depp is solid once again as the slightly tweaked Sparrow and Penélope Cruz is a welcome addition to the cast as Angelica – a woman who can take all Sparrow can dish out and give it right back. It is also good to see the others back, including Kevin McNally’s Gibbs. There are a few new pirates that are nice additions as well, including Scrum played by Stephen Graham as a comic foil… kind of a hybrid of qualities from both Pintel and Ragetti from the previous films.
The look of the film is stellar. Anyone overly concerned about the transition of directors – from Gore Verbinski to Rob Marshall – and its potential impact on the setting and tone of the franchise can relax.
The score also is strong. While a good part of it is familiar, the addition of unique Spanish acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela makes the newer, themed material pop.
CAUTION: I’M GOING INTO SPOILER TERRITORY IN THIS REVIEW NOW. YE BE WARNED!
“On Stranger Tides” also suffers a bit from the multi-prong storytelling that has become an unfortunate staple of the franchise. Writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio handle this only a bit better than they did in the last film. The back-and-forth coupled with the hidden agenda hijinks can create severe viewer fatigue over the course of a 137-minute film. Here, we basically have five separate quests going on – Jack’s, Barbossa’s, Angelica’s, Blackbeard’s and the Spanish. And the one with less of a horse in this race is the film’s franchise character – Jack Sparrow. In the end, he seems to be there only to ‘do the right thing.’
While he mentions at the end of “At World’s End” his desire to taste the waters of the Fountain of Youth, once he actually arrives, with water in chalice, he shows no interest in the life-giving nectar at all. He reacts selflessly, as he did with his shot at immortality at the end of “At World’s End,” which begs the question… does he really want to live forever, as he suggests? This question is addressed rather sloppily at the end of “On Stranger Tides.”
The Bottom Line: