Friday, May 20, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Review

Let's get the 3D portion of this review out of the way. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (POTC: OST) was filmed in 3D, that is, it was not a conversion from 2D. That's a good thing since movies filmed in 3D will be able to be adjusted as they are being filmed for the darkness in 3D movies and also capture light and shadow better.

But is POTC: OST in 3D worth the extra bucks that the theater asks you to shell over? First, the 3D effects pop and that's because it was filmed in 3D. So far so good. But Director Rob Marshall and the writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot have staged too many night and dark scenes. Since 3D movies are dark to begin with, those dark scenes are useless in 3D. Add to that, the movie doesn't seem to want to take advantage of the 3D format. That doesn't mean I want things thrown at me but if you're going to watch a movie in 3D, you should have something in the film to remind you that you're watching it in 3D. As a result, 3D adds nothing to this movie. So, save your money if you want to see POTC: OST and go to the 2D version.

Based on Tim Powers' novel On Stranger Tides, finds Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in London where he hears that a fake Jake Sparrow is trying to get sailors for a venture. Jack is brought before the King who wants him to lead Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to find the Fountain of Youth before the Spanish can get to it. Jack makes a delightful escape from the King's men and eventually finds out who is the fake Sparrow. It's an old flame, Angelica. (Penelope Cruz) She takes him aboard her ship which is under the command of Blackbeard. (Ian McShane) Their destination is also The Fountain of Youth so Blackbeard can drink from it and live forever.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is supposed to be a break away from the convoluted plots of the last two Pirates movies. Depp wanted a more character driven piece much like the first one. (Entertainment Weekly, 5-13-11, pg. 26, 27) That's fine but this Pirates movie needs something interesting for the characters to do. Outside from the aforementioned escape scene there's very little going on as the ships converge on the island which contains the Fountain. Add to that you've got an ill advised subplot with mermaids. And these mermaids aren't like the Little Mermaid in Disney's previous cartoon hit. They're vicious and like vampires can flash sharp teeth. This mermaid subplot takes attention away from Sparrow-Angelica "romance." The movie is also devoid of fun. They bring back rocker Keith Richards as Depp's dad but his scene is just a cameo. What a waste.

Director Marshall (Chicago) turns out to be a bad choice for director. If you're going to have sword fights in the dark, you had better light them well. Almost all fight scenes take place either at night or are in the dark. Can't see a whole lot of what is going on. Another problem is that he films sword fights from the waist up. That's kind of surprising since he's filmed musicals and understands dance. A sword fight is like a dance sequence, you really want to show the body. At least Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the second film, understood this. Those sword fights were shot with full bodies and well lit.

There are some good things about this movie. Depp is great again as Captain Jack Sparrow. Penelope Cruz is sultry. Both could have used funnier dialogue. Ian McShane is an excellent Blackbeard. He doesn't have to say anything to convey menance. Astrid Berges-Frisby is sexy and innocent as the mermaid Syrena. Hans Zimmer's score is the best thing about this movie. It's driving, heroic and features the swashbuckling themes of the series.

You could do worse at the cineplex this weekend than Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. It's an amusing time waster. The grade is C+.

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