Friday, June 10, 2011

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES

Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush
Ian McShane, Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey


Cinema 11, SM Megamall




There is nothing strange in this fourth franchise of a hugely successful movie based on a theme park ride. You still have the familiar and now endearing iconic characters like Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and first mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally) although this time they are directed by Rob Marshall, a guy more known for directing musicals like "Chicago" and "Nine". Thankfully no one (well except one mermaid) burst into a song and dance number.

We are introduced to a more eclectic mix of new characters who individually and collectively contribute with much flair and flavor to this romp of a seafaring adventure. You have the feisty Angelica played by the alluring Penelope Cruz whose mere presence on screen can cause quite a ripple! You cannot really truly decipher if Angelica is a friend or foe to Jack Sparrow. Is she telling the truth about her lineage or is she merely using Jack Sparrow to get the Fountain of Youth? The intrigue factor further enhanced her character.

Blackbeard is personified by the reliable Ian McShane who cleverly and articulately deliver his lines with much fluency. He added many complex layers to the dimensions of the pirate, Blackbeard. He is unabashedly evil, devilishly clever, has a complicated relationship with Angelica, has zombies among the officers on his ship, and uses magic to manipulate his ship's sails and nautical ropes. Strangely enough for me he didn't come across as too much of villain! I attest this mainly to the way that Ian McShane portrayed him.

So although this installment is laden with loud dramatic music to enhance the numerous action sequences like battling with swords fight scenes, I realized it didn't cause much ripples in the visual graphics/special effects department. The previous Pirates of the Caribbean films had memorable special effects like graphically enhanced skeletons walking on the sea bed or a giant octopus like creature devouring an entire ship, to mention a few.

The only digitally generated scene that stands out in this movie is the one where the mermaids viciously attack their 'bait'. This brings me to another observation that the mermaids got a pretty bad rap in this film. They are portrayed as vicious and menacing sea creatures that are quite deceiving in nature. They certainly were very creepy and not at all as I expected them to be!

I found the plot and the story flow (the search for the fountain of youth) much more coherent in this installment. It wasn't saddled with too many muddled side plots peppered by a myriad of insanely colorful characters whose names you couldn't pronounce let alone understand their gibberish accents.

The religious undertones (the clergyman and the Spaniards) though didn't sit quite well with me. The scene with the Spaniards marching in to destroy the Fountain of Youth was too preachy for my taste. It just didn't seem to vibe with the playful, thrilling adventurism nature of the entire franchise.

The open ended final scene did imply that a 5th sequel is imminent. I'm just not quite sure how long and how far they can stretch the (mis)adventures of Jack Sparrow without him losing his playful swagger and wacky yet witty charms.

But one thing is sure, Johnny Depp has found the fountain of Youth and I'm pretty convinced he can play this endearing pirate with much aplomb even when he is in his 80s. Heh!

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