Saturday, May 21, 2011
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
I consider Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island a masterpiece of literature, but there ends my interest in pirates. I enjoyed the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, but the first two sequels added CGI bloat to the original’s charm. The latest Jack Sparrow adventure, On Stranger Tides, is careful not to overdo the CGI. Instead, it’s bloated with clashing, clattering sword fights that go on and on and on to the point that you forget what the hell they’re fighting about.
Still, I found elements to enjoy. I took my daughter, a Jack Sparrow fan, and I enjoyed her laughter in response to this more lighthearted escapade that starts with Jack impersonating a judge, swinging from a chandelier, leading the Redcoats a merry chase through the streets of London, jumping from coach top to coach top, hijacking a coal wagon that spills burning coals to ward off the cavalry. And although Depp overdoes Jack’s affectations and antics, he still can raise a chuckle with a well-timed one-liner.
As for the story, it’s all about finding the Fountain of Youth on some unidentified island, and by the time said Fountain is found, you forget what everybody’s after, but the journey takes us through some colorful scenery, and in order to make the Fountain’s waters work, you need a mermaid’s tear, and that’s as good an excuse as any to throw in the film’s best sequence in which Jack, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), and dastardly Blackbeard (Ian McShane) attempt to capture a mermaid.
I found the mermaids quite fetching and lots of fun. They start out as Victoria’s Secret models posing in fish tails, but they transform into fierce man-killers, providing a startling contrast as they swarm in a shark-like frenzy around a longboat full of potential prey.
(Gemma Ward plays Tamara)
(Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Syrena)
For its minimalism and use of color, that famous Howard Pyle illustration of the poor pirate marooned on a desert island has always been my favorite depiction of a pirate. And I’ve always appreciated how the Pirates of the Caribbean films have, I'd like to believe, alluded to that painting by including striking locations and minimalist shots of Jack on a pristine beach, but it’s well nigh time for Jack, admittedly a classic film character, to find one of those desert sand spits, settle down, and give up pirating for good.