The first three films formed a trilogy that revolved around Jack Sparrow’s re-acqusition of his ship, The Black Pearl. In the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, Jack (Johnny Depp) is once again shipless, and a prisoner of the British crown. He is wrangled into searching for the fabled Fountain of Youth by an old flame, and ends up sailing alongside the notorious pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). In addition, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) returns as Jack’s old nemesis.
It’s hard to hate a movie that is, at its core, so innocent. The original trilogy never had any depth to it, and suffered from countless plotholes and bad characterization. Still, the fact that they never took themselves seriously made them watchable enough. Gore Verbinski decided to stop directing the films after finishing the third, so Rob Marshall took over with this installment. It seems a little out of his element, considering most of his previous works are musicals. He’s also the guy that directed Memoirs of a Geisha, if that means anything to you.
On Stranger Tides is just as wild and needlessly complicated as the previous films, even with a different director. Jack ends up on what seems like a wild goose chase for something out of a legend. He meets various enemy factions and spends the film switching his allegiance to suit his mood and goals. There is a fair amount of swashbuckling and choreographed swordplay. The characters do a lot of silly things that don’t always make sense, and supporting characters end up serving almost superfluous roles on the fringes of the plot.
It’s no Citizen Kane. You will have to suspend your sense of disbelief when you watch this film to avoid getting mad at how stupid everyone seems to be. But if you liked the first three films then you will find this one is not a departure from their shared style. It’s a good way to eat up a chunk of time instead of doing stupid things like homework or chores. Watch it once, file it away in the back of your mind, and wait for the next sequel.