What follows is not a usual review from a critic but is a lament from an ardent fan of the earlier Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
The first three installments of the Pirates series were major box office successes globally. Naturally, the studio had to come out with PoC4. Irrespective of whether it is well made or not, PoC4 is decidedly going to be a hit, riding on the success of its preceding movies. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t live up to the Pirates legacy, in fact it falls well short.
PoC4 has a very shallow plot. The Spaniards have discovered the location of the Fountain of Youth and are making their way to it. Meanwhile, a prophecy has been made which proclaims the death of the dreaded and cruel pirate Blackbeard at the hands of a one-legged man. Predictably, Blackbeard also wants to go to the fountain of youth to become immortal before his would-be nemesis gets to him. His daughter, Angelica(played by Penelope Cruz) goes around masquerading as Jack Sparrow trying to assemble a crew. This brings Sparrow into the fray. A third group comes into play when the English, in a bid to beat the Spaniards, form their own group with Captain Barbossa at the helm. Now that the stage is set, all three groups set out after the fountain of youth. Along the way, Jack Sparrow, keeps shuffling his allegience between the English under Barbossa and Blackbeard.
Other sub-plots, for instance the relationship between the captured mermaid and the preacher/missionary guy don’t really have any reason to exist. They are very poorly fleshed out and only serve as an irritation or distraction.
Besides the pedestrian plotline, another problem with PoC4 is the lack of any defining sequences. The Curse of the Black Pearl had several(Sparrows entrance, Tortuga, the final fight scenes); the Dead Mans Chest too had plenty(Kraken attack, the five-way scuffle in the middle of the movie for the chest and the final scenes again) and so did At Worlds End(saving Sparrow, maelstrom scene). On Stranger Tides on the other hand lacks such a sequence. The high point of the movie is when Blackbeard tries to catch a Mermaid. But compared to some of the sequences in previous movies, this one is dull.
Jack Sparrow, who is the only known face other than Barbossa from previous movies, is not his usual self. His escape sequences lack their improvisations and his dialogues have lost their one-liners. The promos running on TV show everything, there is nothing more in the movie to look forward to from him.
Penelope Cruz who replaces Keira Knightley has the looks, but lacks the spunk that Keira brought to her character. The story gives her a lot of screen time to do very little. Cutting out her character from the script would easily save about 30-35 minutes from the running time with little effect on the story.
Another sham was the OST. There is no original music here – the background score from the previous movies has been reused here. I am not sure why Hans Zimmer was even given credit. He surely didn’t do anythin this time and the previous OST is owned by the studio! Very disappointing indeed.
The supporting cast too is new here. Other than Mr. Gibbs, we dont have anybody else. Mr. Cotton, the small bald guy and his lanky friend (whose eye kept falling out of its socket in the Curse of the Black Pearl), the dwarf are sorely missed. There is nobody in the movie besides Jack Sparrow to provide any comic relief whose, as I have alluded to earlier, has very ordinary dialogues.
In retrospect, this was to be expected. The director has changed – it is Rob Marshall this time. He doesn’t stand up to Gore Verbinski in any way. I hope there are no more Pirates movies in the pipeline. The series deserves more than this. On the whole, I would give On Stranger Tides 1.5/5.