I don't do reviews often, but when it comes to properties I feel strongly about, I make it a point to state my opinions. That should be the first point to note, that I am not a film critic by any means, and what follows is strictly opinion.
I will say to start off, as you may have already heard, that Pirates 4 is much better than the 3rd and arguably the second, but even with that said it doesn't hold a candle to the first. The first 20 minutes of On Stranger Tides references the older movies way too much for my tastes. Preferably I would've liked for the other movies never to have come to mind, but alas they wanted us to remember these characters and fill us in on what's been going on since the third. It was completely unecessary and made the beginning drag a bit for me. They forced the establishing of character relationships and never allowed us to get it organically, so that if you weren't familiar with the other movies you may say, "oh...they know each other," but never fully get your own opinions based on this film, it's laid out too clearly for you. Eventually this ends and they move on with this new story, but the inside jokes never cease. You're along for the ride and the rest of the movie is a big "hey look what these characters are doing now!"
We don't care.
They also tried their best to recreate, in my opinion, the best fight scene of the entire franchise (the first between bloom and depp in the blacksmith shop) but unfortunately they try to hard. None of the action really hooked me as much as that one in the first movie, and even the attempt at the carriage chases was pretty forced and unexciting.
There is one place where this movie succeeds where I had major complaints with the 2nd and 3rd movies, and it's where they finally give Jack Sparrow some skill this time around. If you didn't notice, the 1st movie actually had Jack as a skillfull pirate, but in the subsequent movies he was reduced to that of a mere idiot with lots of luck and some skill with a blade. This turned down my favor towards Jack and put Barbossa as the best "pirate" in the series, but with this film Jack finally can take the place he deserves. Everything he does is calculated and, though sloppy, deliberate in it's execution. This is what I wanted to see in Jack this time around, and it was definitely what made this movie fun. He's still not written the same as the first as it seems his selfishness of the first movie is being masked over, and he's almost too smart in this movie, but I forgive it because at least they got something right.
The script is lacking, the dialogue isn't the best (bogged down with too much re-establishing characters, inside jokes, and exposition), and the characters are not juggled as well as the first movie. One thing I was hoping for was to find this story following and revolving around the love connection between what was the priest character and the mermaid, but the studio obviously wanted Jack; which is again a major disappointment because what made Jack so great in the first movie was that he was only a supporting character. But I expected to be disappointed here, and I am glad to say that the priest and mermaid were not terribly underused. I would've liked more from them story wise but unfortunately they were only a subplot, and this was a missed opportunity.
Penelope Cruz was also pleasently engaging in this film. I thought I would have a problem with her character going in but I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed her in many ways. Though this was also the studios attempt to get more money and therefore her character was not as fleshed out as I would've liked, I can definitely see how good the concept must've looked on paper and Penelope certainly does a good job in bringing Angelica to life.
Barbossa lost his luster. I did not like his character in this till the end, and though Geoffrey Rush was a lot of fun to watch, it doesn't mask the fact that his character was only written to keep him in the script. That's all I'll say on that.
Ian Mcshane was a good blackbeard, but hardly did we get a sense of his general scariness. What made him the most feared pirate on the seas? Who knows. I mean, they tried to show it with a "I have to make an example or they'll forget who I am" moment, but the consequences were never felt. Even the eventual climactic battle was ended poorly. He did get some great moments, but it was a waste of the character blackbeard as they put all their attention on sparrow.
Some of the side characters were fun, but nothing compared to the duos we had in the first movie. They tried. And the mermaids were beautiful (not just saying it cause they were models) but just the execution of that was done very well, and that's good considering this movie practically hinged on it. The spanish were fun but they were again underused and - really? That's how you're going to end the ending battle? - is how I felt about them at the end. Oscar Jaenada should have gotten more screen time and better character development. Definitely another missed opportunity. One quick note: what was the point of including Jack Sparrow's father in this film? Seriously? Why?
I'll take a side track to note that the soundtrack was fun and the collaboration with Rodrigo Y Gabriela was a perfect choice. Definitely enjoyed it.
Overall this movie was full of missed opportunites. It was a fun romp with interesting characters and a great concept, but in the end I felt like it was another churned out moneymaker that simply wanted you to "wait for the next movie, but here's this to tie you over." i should also mention that I saw it in 2D, and though it's ridiculous that I have to mention it I do know that people wonder about the 3D aspect. Unfortunately the only movie I plan on watching in 3D this summer is Transformers 3, as I've heard it's the only live action film since Avatar to shoot it correctly.
They spent too much time on Jack, didn't give us the character development we wanted, and tried to hard to recreate the success of the first one, and in those respects it fails. Pirates 4 does do a good job of giving you a fun flick to enjoy during the summer though, and does more than make up for the third piece of crap movie that I'd like to forget. Though you don't get the same character development as the first one still has fun watching Jack and Barbossa go at it again, and the introduction of new characters was definitely a plus for those who want to forget the Bloom/Knightly chaos that was the 2nd and 3rd film. (seriously...who wrote those movies and how did they mess up every character?)
One last thing: I'm in love with the mermaid.
What did you think of Pirates 4: On Stranger Tides? Do you agree with my assessments? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments.
Mattias is an actor, writer, filmmaker, and editor currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He often writes about his observations about life, the human condition, spirituality, and relationships. He also enjoys writing about movies, pop culture, formula one, and current events. Often these writings are 'initial thoughts' and un-edited, as authentic as possible, and should be considered opinions. If you're interested in commenting on his work, or continuing the conversation, you should consider following him on Twitter or share an article on social media, where he would love to engage even further. Consider subscribing via RSS for more.