What makes a good adventure movie? Is it a giant rock that can crush a whip wielding hero in a second? Riding on the back of a flying dog dragon perhaps? Space battles in a galaxy far, far away? Surely a film about pirates in a fantasy setting. Or at least that should be a nice set up for an adventure movie. Especially if your budget is 200 million friggin’ dollars. Then why do Disney, Bruckheimer and associates fail so miserably at delivering a consistent piece of fun?
The first part in the now Pirates of the Caribbean quadrilogy is great indeed and that film almost has it all. From swashbuckling, rum drinking, foul mouthing pirates, to frigate racing and treasure hunting. It only lacks a pirate with a wooden leg (I mean, come on, every pirate movie needs a pirate with a wooden leg). That error has been smoothened in this latest part of the series, which will undoubtedly not be the last part. But the peg legged pirate is a cold comfort. Almost everything else that makes up On Stranger Tides is a big waste of budget.
Isn’t that little harsh? If you think spending a fifth of a trillion dollars on a dull film is money well spent then sure, it’s harsh. Probably a lot of the budget went to Johnny Depp, but it doesn’t reflect in his on screen efforts. It did go to some decent special effects, attractive mermaids and a handful of action sequences too. So how can the 140 minutes of On Stranger Tides be so boring? Simple. It offers nothing more than those elements. It does introduce Blackbeard (Ian McShane), the fearsomest pirate of all, and the series reprises one of its finest characters with captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), but these characters get nothing else to do but bicker and squabble. Even Penelope Cruz can’t save the movie with her adorable accent.
Sadly, On Stranger Tides has a total lack of thrill and adventure. Even Johnny Depp as captain Jack Sparrow doesn’t know how to keep this ship from sinking. He fades to the background as if he was still playing the chameleon from Rango, his previous movie. Sparrow gets himself imprisoned by Blackbeard, as he knows the location to the mythical fountain of youth. But the site is known to the Royal and the Spanish Navy as well and all set sail for some good old treasure hunting. Awesome. But wait, hold on, Sparrow imprisoned? Isn’t he supposed to be the Houdini of every jail type?
In On Stranger Tides the worlds finest pirate, in his own way, is only a pet dog that barks a bit, but doesn’t bite. “There’s the Jack I know”, says boatman Gibbs in the trailer. He apparently knows Jack better than we do. In answer to the question asked earlier: a good adventure flick needs to give its audience the feeling that they aren’t watching the movie, they should experience it. Who didn’t pucker their buttocks during the Indy scene? Who didn’t feel the wind in their hair when Falkor chased those bullies through the alley? And who didn’t want to fly over the surface of the Death Star to find that silly little hole?
On Stranger Tides doesn’t challenge its audience. That’s kind of weird, the series is based on a damned theme park attraction of all things. Disney had it right at their first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but they wanted too much in the second and third parts. In this attempt to go back to the roots they went too far, beneath the roots, to the concept only. And it stays there. There is a lot of potential in this film, but potential has to be utilized. On Stranger Tides is tame, dull and to be honest: boring.