Popcorn, that is. The movies. “Pirates,” specifically. The likely conclusion to the highly entertaining and profitable quartet of films from Disney’s fun factory, with an assist from Jerry Bruckheimer. This past Sunday, my wife and I went to the cinema at the Methuen Loop to see Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” We didn’t expect to see it in 3-D, but we went with the tide.
I’d read that this installment would be a less visually grand and sprawling tale than the last one, and it was on the less side. But on the more side, the story was still of epic scale and the settings were spectacular. I had to look up where this one was filmed: Hawaii instead of the Caribbean, where the other three were mostly shot. The ships appeared to be more elaborate this time out or maybe I was just seeing them better with my 3-D glasses. The filmmakers succeeded in making their own story-universe for these movies, which I think is a key to transporting the audiences for such fantasy tales like Star Wars, the Rings trilogy, and Harry Potter series. Big music, too. That always helps.
“Pirates 4″ is less extravagant than the others, except for the supercharged mermaids and the fire-breathing ship commanded by Blackbeard, played by the “Deadwood” guy, Ian McShane, who was a little dead, actually. Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa would have stolen the show if Johnny Depp wasn’t so naturally charismatic. Capt. Jack Sparrow is the straw that stirs the coconut milk, of course. The chemistry between Capt. Jack and Angelica (Penelope Cruz) didn’t spark the way it did with Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth in previous episodes. The familiar bantering between Depp and Rush had the feeling of veteran teammates. There was something familiar about the whole event, which was part of the appeal for me. The search for the Fountain of Youth was an inventive twist, even though Capt. Jack doesn’t appear to need it. In the end he makes his own choice.
The films are a long way from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride I went on at Disneyland in Southern California in 1967, but they always bring me back to that amusement park ride, which now looks pretty small-time in the rearview mirror. I haven’t seen the upgrade in Orlando. Wikipedia reports that Johnny Depp was paid $55.5 million to appear in this film. Let’s make a note of that for the Kerouac Center plans in Lowell.
I give this one three stars out of four. The first film is still the best due to Depp’s genius in inventing the Capt. Jack Sparrow character and the revival of swashbuckling fun on the big screen.