Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


The Pirates franchise is turning into a ride we all just want to get off...

On Stranger Tides review

Clearly damned to roam the seas churning out pirate films for all eternity – or until his contract runs out, whichever comes sooner – Johnny Depp inevitably returns as fancy-dress comedy buccaneer Jack Sparrow for Disney’s fourth instalment of Mild Piratical Peril. Because as long as the doubloons keep rolling in, the money-spinning formula will continue to be applied...

This year’s result, as sure as eggs is eggs, is another wacky race against time to retrieve some sort of thing everyone wants, framing another collection of vaguely diverting action sequences, frantic chases, showcase locations and lots of boring exposition.

This year’s Plot-Propelling Object isn’t a magic compass, or a medallion, or a deck of 1977 Spider-man Top Trumps but a map to the legendary Fountain of Youth.

The race is between Geoffrey Rush’s now peg-legged rogue Captain Barbossa (still the most entertaining aspect to the entire franchise), on a mercenary expedition for King George II (Richard Griffiths in an oily cameo); some identikit Spaniards, largely forgotten about until the end; and guest-starring Big Bad Guy Of The Week, Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach (Ian McShane), fearsome captain of the fire-spewing Queen Anne’s Revenge, practitioner of black magic and “the pirate all other pirates fear...”

Anyone expecting a potty-mouthed Deadwood-style cuss-fest from Lovejoy will obviously be disappointed, this being such a family-friendly collection of hypoallergenic PG-13 set-pieces.

But it’s still an underused, and curiously understated performance given the competition, McShane not having much to do apart from kidnap mermaids and occasionally execute a crewman to remind everyone how terrible he is.

Of course, there’s no shortage of the finest ham being served elsewhere but Depp’s shtick as mincing annoyance Sparrow is now getting very old indeed.

Chicago director Rob Marshall seems to have realised this – Sparrow is sidelined in a throwaway sub-plot involving Blackbeard’s daughter, old flame Angelica (Penélope Cruz – fiery, Spanish, etc) which doesn't really go anywhere and only makes sense when Captain Jack is chucked into the action.

There are shiny pieces of eight hidden among the filler. A languid sequence involving mermaids that turns into a nasty Jaws homage is effective, and the fight scenes are as finely choreographed, if sterile, as ever. There's also a pell-mell opening chase that shows off its impressive period London setting.

Mawkish though it may be, the only human touch – a cheesy romance between a captured mermaid and a hunky preacher – just illuminates the lack of depth elsewhere.

Inevitably, all the plot threads are left for Part Five to pick up, come 2015, albeit with hardly anyone to root for and rarely any real sense of threat or conflict.


Not as incomprehensible, or interminable as At World’s End, but no amount of flash and filigree can conceal a disappointingly soulless, directionless adventure-by-numbers. All swash, little buckle: welcome back to the theme park ride that NEVER ENDS...

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Jimzilla

      May 11th 2011, 10:33

      Woah, that is an incredibly vicious review!! I'd like to know 1) If the writer enjoyed the first film (I agreed with Empire's 5 star review back in the day) and 2) why the film has been rated with 3 stars when the review reads like that of a barely two star film.

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    • earlhebner

      May 11th 2011, 14:42

      hahaha that does sound harsh given the three stars. im sensing alot of negativity towards the pirates series. i agree with the first film being 5 stars, and the second and third were good, mainly because of bill nighy and geoffrey rush. im looking forward to the fourth film, even if it is getting very stale... pirates are awesome.

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    • gengen

      May 11th 2011, 14:48

      Well someone forgot to take their happy pill this morning. While scathing reviews can be fun this one is just a little difficult to get through, and there really isn't much coherence between review and rating. Also, referring to what is probably one of cinema's current favourite characters as a 'mincing annoyance' really just makes you sound bitter and foolish

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    • writerdave87

      May 11th 2011, 16:09

      So the reviewer hated it, but as usual Total film gives it 3 stars so they can sit on the fence and mock or big it up later... ;)

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    • BruceShark

      May 11th 2011, 20:39

      "Ah what happened. Did you get to the bottom of the ceral box only to find someone stole the toy. Ah don't worry look, Pirates 4 is out, take out all your frustration on that, mnd you no less then three stars and then you can have some eggs with soldiers. There's a good little boy." said the editor and chief of Total Mag.

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    • superfurryliam

      May 13th 2011, 9:57

      This clearly reads like a 2 star review. What gives with the 3 stars?

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    • piffle

      May 15th 2011, 18:12

      Wow... Sorry TF, this is without a doubt the worst "review" I've ever read from you guys. All I get from this is that the reviewer doesn't like the franchise, the obvious lack of neutrality means that I still don't know if this film is likely to be any good or not. And as a lot of other people have commented, why write such an obviously s****y review and then give it 3 stars?

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    • Mattsimus

      May 15th 2011, 19:01

      Ok there is something suspiciously wrong going on here! well ok the last pirates wasnt great in fact at worlds end stank whilst the first two were great! prob is TF def have a prob with this franchise, and although I realise noone wants to see their fav franchises slated, it seems to me that every block buster to come out over the past few weeks has recievd 3 stars! Scream4, Fast Five and even Thor and now pirates 4! im thinking ya basically lost ya balls n didnt wanna go to low or too high incase no one agreed! in short ur a bunch of wussy's!!!!!! n yeah the review reads like it was given 1 or 2 stars and by a HATER!!!!!

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    • AllStarAlun

      May 16th 2011, 8:39

      I loved the first one. The second had its moments. The third was a three day bore fest which seemed to lurch from one plot line to another. Afraid I agree with TF's description of Sparrow too. He's the Freddy of our generation: at first captivating and fresh, now a sorry characture who wouldn't be missed if marooned....

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    • reviwer

      May 16th 2011, 17:49

      What a strange rant of a review! Personally I as many others I am sure will agree thought the first film was genius and the other two seemed to dampen what could have been one of the best franchises ever. I dont agree though with the canning that Jack Sparrow is getting. I found him the main entertainment through all three previous films and I am sure he will be as entertaining in this installment. I mean what are you expecting from him. If his character changed through the four films you would be slamming him for inconsistancy. I truely hope this was a review written on a bad day and the film is far more of a three star film than the review reads.

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    • TheDMeister

      May 21st 2011, 0:52


      Definitly a little ill-tempered but not without merits. There are alot of characters such as Angelica and Blackbeard that just do not measure up to the characters of the last films even though there were too many. I disagree about Depp who I thought returned to glorious form in this Pirates film which is visually stunning, boasts amazing set pieces and special effects, outstanding music but is most of all a lot of fun. The plot isn't as straightforward as it should but it is no-way near the bloated-ness of the last one. This is great fun but still short of the magic of the first.

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    • cpgsterry

      May 21st 2011, 12:18


      I'm a Pirates fan, the first was incredible, the second great and the third... well i believe better than this one. Jack Sparrow was once again his charning self, he wasn't annoying but his jokes have gone dry. Cruz just doesn't suit this genre, she lacked her normal lustre. Though potentially exciting the action sequences are grasping at straws, the new 'crew' are bad versions of the entertaining buccaneers we've come to recognise and the romance side story was frankly boring and corny. I think the only thing that really kept me watching was McShane, considering the brilliance that was Barbossa (who I think suffered in this instalment due to bad writing) and the originality of Davy Jones, McShane's Blackbeard managed to stay different from the other fearsome pirate captains we've already met, he was a breath of fresh air in this stale franchise. Overall, a film I easily could have waited to come on Sky Premiere and plan to do so for the alleged fifth instalment.

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    • hulk68

      May 23rd 2011, 12:32


      Ok its a three stars movie (rated good). However the review makes it like its plain Bad. Well its good just not as good as part 1 but definately better than the discgusting part two or the endless and confusing part 3. Cruz was excellent and under used. Depp and Mcshanew were excellent as well. The 3D effects were not bad. All in all a solidly enjoyable movie

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    • ChrisMac

      May 27th 2011, 11:57


      It sickens me to think that out of the two 'big' summer starting sequels of 2011, Rotten Tomatoes has been more approving of this than the Hangover 2. This film was a total bore to watch. I really wanted it to get better but potential was just smashed all the way through. I am a huge, huge fan of the POTC franchise but this is easily the worst Pirates film. I don't even want to say 'so far'.

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    • Legacy3D

      Jun 6th 2011, 13:54


      After four years, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns to the seas, this time in search of the fountain of youth. Set following the events of at worlds end, jack sparrow is in London, looking to captain a crew to set sail to find the fountain of youth. While there he finds that former pirate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is now employed by the British navy, lost his leg and the black pearl has been taken by Blackbeard (Ian Mcshane). In addition he finds his former love interest Angelica (Penelope Cruz) they are both taken aboard Blackbeard’s ship the Queen Anne's Revenge. Where they sail to find the fountain, close behind them are an English navy army led by Barbossa and a group from the Spanish empire. For the fourth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean series several changes were made as new director Rob Marshall replaces Gore Verbinski from the original trilogy and a large number of the original cast did not return. This proves a problem as this is a sequel not a remake and you expect more than just captain Jack and Barbossa from the first 3 movies. Another problem is main villain Blackbeard spoken as the most evil pirate of all time, is nothing if compared to Davey jones from the prior two movies. The 3D effects used are limited and unnecessary addition to this franchise. Special effects used in the creation of the mermaid battle scene bring something different and new into the movie. Overall the movie has a good story but fails to live up to the hype or replicate the strength of the original trilogy.

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