Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

I had low hopes for this movie. I mean, my few memories of the last one were of my friend moaning that she wanted her money back. There were threats to walk out. It was bloody awful. This one, though?

Well, it’s better than the third. It’s better than the second. It goes without saying that it’s not a patch on the first.

The first one was great in the way that Raiders of the Lost Ark is great – a near-flawless theme park ride that leaves you dizzy and breathless and exhilarated. This one is great in the way that The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emporer is great – it manages not to be a complete embarrassment and is a whole lot better than Indy 4.

I think, with On Stranger Tides, the Pirates films have managed to break the Rule of the Threequel, i.e. that the fourth installment in any franchise must automatically suck. (We’re taking Star Wars in the IV, V, VI, I, II, III order here.) If the third one was the abominable turkey, it’s the fourth that roughly redeems it, in an Episode III half-assed way. It does at least remember theoretically what made the first one special and make a valiant attempt to recreate it, even if Rob Marshall is no Gore Verbinski, and most of the jokes and action sequences fall rather flat.

Contradicting a review I read, Depp and Cruz do have a reasonable amount of chemistry, even if I’d agree that the most compelling characters are the captive missionary, Philip Swift (Sam Claflin), and the mermaid Syrena (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) he falls in love with. Ian McShane is a fine scenery-chewing villain, and everyone gamely tries to make it work and generally succeeds. It’s an entertaining film, and it’s two-and-a-bit-hour running time rarely drags. It’s not patchy like the second or perplexing like the third, and just cruises along on an even keel from start to finish.

On Stranger Tides is no Disney ‘coaster, but it’s a pleasant enough go on the teacup ride.

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