Having the luxury of writing this after the film’s rather amazing opening weekend, I can already assure you that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a commercial success. In fact, it had the biggest overseas opening weekend of any movie in the history of cinema, over $250mil in overseas box office. Domestic US results weren’t shabby either: Variety pegs it at just a bit over $90 mil in domestic ticket sales.
Which begs the question is it any good?
I’d say yes, it’s definitely an entertaining Pirates of the Caribbean installment, with exciting stunts, wry, foppish Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), beautiful exteriors and a crisp, enjoyable production feel that shows just how well films can be assembled in this day of pervasive computer technology and really high-definition cameras. However — and you knew there was a “however”, right? — I’ll also say that it wasn’t as good as the crown jewel of the Pirates series, The Curse of the Black Pearl, which is a perfect tentpole movie. Then again, Dead Man’s Chest (part 2 of the series) was at best mediocre and At World’s End (part 3) was just awful, and even Depp came out recently and said it didn’t make sense even as they filmed it. Not so good, and its box office results reflected that.
So On Stranger Tides is a great reboot, but it also drags at parts and the biggest weakness is that female lead and Sparrow’s lackluster love interest Angelica (Penelope Cruze) is downright awful in the movie. Her accent is often difficult to understand and she’s just not that engaging. I thought Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly) was way more interesting in a series that requires every character on screen to be larger than life.
The story of On Stranger Tides is essentially a race to the New World between the evil Spaniards, the British Royal Navy, ably captained by Captain Barbarossa (Geoffrey Rush), guided rather under duress by Sparrow’s first mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally), and the pirate vessel captained by Blackbeard (Ian McShane), with zombie officers and Sparrow (Depp) as just another scurvy dog. They’re all seeking to reach the fabled Fountain of Youth first, each for their own reasons.
There are a lot of ideas thrown into the film, some of which are very fun (I dig these dark mermaids) and others of which are forgotten after just the shortest appearance (zombie pirates). There’s also the expected potpourri of action scenes, my favorite of which was Sparrow’s London street-level escape from the British soldiers.
Ultimately, I will recommend you go see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides if you liked the previous films in the series or just want to know what all the hoopla is about. It’s unquestionably better than At World’s End and probably better than Dead Man’s Chest. If only they’d have cast a different female lead…
And a tip: stay through the closing credits, ya scurvy dog! You’ll thank me.