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Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

May 24, 2011 08:39AM ● By Wendy Sipple

On Stranger Tides centers on a race between the Spaniards, the English and the Pirate Blackbeard to get to the fountain of youth. There are several subplots that happen within the journey to the fountain of youth, a missionary falls in love with a mermaid, Barbosa wants revenge on Blackbeard, and then there is a sorted history between Jack Sparrow and Blackbeard’s daughter Angelica.

All of the subplots add up to very little as this movie has one main star now and that is Jack Sparrow, and his misadventures dominate the screen time and that is the main problem with the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

In the previous trilogy Jack Sparrow stole the show, but ultimately the story revolved around the characters played by Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly. In the new installment our main protagonist is Jack Sparrow himself, and his character is a much better fit in a supporting role.

In a supporting role Jack can pop in and be funny and unpredictable. The trouble with Jack Sparrow leading this film is his intentions change constantly and thus I never understood the purpose of the film. Jack is forced to find the fountain of youth against his will but seems to have ample opportunity to leave if he wanted to. Jack Sparrow had so much joy in the first trio of films being a pirate I couldn’t help noticing that joy was gone in this go around. There were moments that Jack Sparrow said a quirky line and displayed some of the charm that made the character so famous. However much of the film fell flat.  

The production values were good and it had enough action in it. But unfortunately much of the action felt forced because it just wasn’t necessary. Characters would engage in long swords fights only to stop and then have a long conversation. Why fight in the first place? In fact much of what happens in the film left me scratching my head. No one did anything out of motivation other than Barbosa. Several characters did things that just flat out made no sense. 

The writers really missed the mark. The subplot of the missionary that was abducted by Blackbeard should have been the main story of the film with the journey to the fountain of youth reduced to a subplot. Unfortunately they focus so little on this character and reduced his role to such a degree that when this character does speak he just seems out of place. 

Ultimately the movie felt small and unnecessary because nothing epic really happens. I suppose they do find the fountain of youth, but none of the main characters really wanted to use the fountain anyway, only the bad guy. No great new characters were added to the series and nothing happened that changed any of the main characters either.

While the previous two sequels were over stuffed with characters, plots and twists it always aimed to be epic in scale and maintained this sort of magic, fun and charm to it. I appreciated that On Stranger Tides went for a more streamlined story but in the process they lost the magic, charm and fun too. Not to mention this sequel doesn’t aim anywhere near an epic feeling. In fact this movie felt like a diversion for all the characters involved.

So if you are a big fan of the first three films or you just like pirate movies you might have fun revisiting the series but adjust your expectations accordingly.

FILMS LIKE ON STRANGER TIDES – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Prince of Persia and Legend of Zorro


Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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