Years after the vanquishing of Davy Jones, our famed anti-hero Jack Sparrow finds himself on the trail of the Fountain of Youth. In an untrustworthy alliance with the infamous Blackbeard he is being chased by the Spanish and by Barbossa, now in the service of the King. Will they get the treasure before it’s too late? Find out in… Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
What?! We open in England where Jack is in search of a ship to get him back on track to search for the famed Fountain of Youth. He finds that he’s not the only one currently in search of the treasure, as Barbossa, now a profiteer for England, and the Spanish are also in pursuit. Hearing rumors of another pirate posing as Jack Sparrow he comes across a former beau, Angelica, who captures him. Once on board he realizes that his has been taken prisoner in service of Blackbeard, famed psychopath and dear ol’ dad to Angelica. Oh no! Much like characters in an old school adventure game of the past, Jack and Blackbeard need to collect a number of specific items to make the MacGuffin… er… Fountain of Youth work. These include several other MacGuffins, including a mermaid’s tears and some silver chalices. Once they collect these in a series of exciting misadventures and arrive at the Fountain, it turns into an outright brawl between Blackbeard and Barbossa’s crews. This brawl is ended by the arrival of the Spanish who promptly destroy the Fountain as sinful. In a final act of revenge Barbossa mortally wounds both Blackbeard and Angelica. With only one dose of the Fountain left to save either father or daughter, Jack tricks Blackbeard knowing that his selfish ways would doom him and save Angelica. Upon his death everyone is happy because he sucked. THE END.
Why?! This is easily the most straightforward of the Pirates of the Caribbean films and as a result the motivations are also fairly straightforward. Blackbeard wants to cheat his recently foretold death by drinking from the Fountain of Youth, Barbossa wants to kill Blackbeard for sweet revenge, and the Spanish want to destroy the Fountain. So the race is on! As for our hero Jack Sparrow, his motivation doesn’t change much in the series. He’s happy as long as he is sailing the open seas on his beloved Black Pearl, but there is always an undercurrent of a desire for immortality. That’s basically the premise of the first three films: how can Jack Sparrow sail the open seas for eternity? It’s hinted that that’s the reason he wants to get to the Fountain, but this all falls apart once the climactic melee ensues. This motivation is why I’m pretty sure there will be at least a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film.
What?! Each entry in the series seems to ratchet up the MacGuffin level one more notch. By the time they get the fourth one we have a film based entirely on finding the Fountain of Youth that needs several other objects to work. While an ideal MacGuffin is something we don’t know or need to know the actual function of (we obviously know how the reason the Fountain is important in this case), this is still a great set of MacGuffins.
Who?! Have to give a shout out to Author Tim Powers (one of the fathers of Steampunk) who got a “Suggested by” credit for this film on the basis of his pirate adventure novel On Stranger Tides. Apparently the book was a major influence on the Monkey Island games as well. Funny story is that when Disney approached Powers about optioning the book for the fourth film he was surprised because he had thought they had already lifted elements from it for the first film.
Where?! Is the entire Pirates of the Caribbean series an A+? I say no, not precise enough. Like saying Here on Earth is an A+. On top of that they are never specific as to where in the Caribbean they are most of the time. Booo. I deem this a C- only because they are specifically in England at the start.
When?! I’m not going to be able to put an exact date on this, but it is interesting that this film give a basic time frame for the entire series. Takes place during the reigns of King Ferdinand of Spain, King George II, Prime Minister Henry Pelham, and Lord John Carteret. Sets it between 1751 and 1754. That’s a tight D- and funny because the wikipedia page says it takes place in 1750. Read yo history wikipedia. I would place it in 1751.
To finish up the recap I’ll just mention that the first film in the series not to feature Gore Verbinski at the helm really took a step back technologically and overall stuntwork. If there were three things I looked for in a Pirates of the Caribbean film it was cutting edge visual technology, some jokes from our charismatic lead Jack Sparrow, and grand and complex stunts. This basically went backwards on all three. Not great.
‘Ello everyone! Johnny Depp has been calling you day in and day out. Constantly. You don’t want to do it, but you know one thing: Johnny Depp wants his money, and he wants it now. So I guess we’re making a fourth one. Get the giant set piece assembled, we get to deal with this thing again. Let’s go!
The Good (BMulTiverse Theories) – Something about this series gets me every time. I don’t understand it. They all start the same (a giant set piece action scene with Johnny Depp flying around with tons of practical effects), they get more and more ridiculous, Depp is a caricature at this point … but I like it. Something about it entertains me in a different way than Transformers (which at this point just annoys me). I like Penelope Cruz, and I forgot how much Jack Sparrow doesn’t really annoy me (it is perplexing given how other characters, like Mortdecai, are very similar and extremely grating). I didn’t mind the movie, I actually quite liked how they scaled the story back compared to the second and third film. I’m going to introduce a new game here called the BMulTiverse Theory. Similar to Sklognalogy, this looks into a different film and re-imagines what might have been given a different sequence of events. In this case the Pirates franchise reminds me of what I imagine a modern day Indiana Jones would have looked like. Sprawling sets with elaborate practical effects. Magical realism, a charming lead, all presented as a period piece. We’d be sitting at five or six Indiana Jones right now, the stories getting more and more ridiculous. Trust me, it would be the same, and we’d all be complaining about how trite the character of Indiana Jones is at this point.
The Bad (Sklog-cabulary Quiz) – The film is far too long. I love Ian McShane, but Blackbeard failed to bring any of the charm or interest that a villain needs in this series. The entire thing seemed very linear, almost comically McGuffin-esque. Half the characters only speak in order to explain things about the Fountain of Youth as all of the characters directly and unyieldingly march toward this inevitable goal. Let’s try out a new Sklog-cabulary Quiz. For Pirates of the Caribbean I think I’ll note something that is also present in the aforementioned Indiana Jones series, the:
Rube Goldberg Action Sequence – (n.) An action sequence that accomplishes by complex means what seemingly could be done simply.
A mark of the Pirates franchise in which Johnny Depp flies across chandeliers or sword fights on a giant wheel, it is really impressive when done correctly. It actually isn’t really a bad movie trope since you need a crazy amount of money to pull it off, but it is something the sticks out about the Pirates franchise.
The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – On Stranger Tides won’t really have any legacy, although the franchise as a whole could have a place if a sixth is made. A double trilogy where the second trilogy was torn apart by critics would be rather fun. This actually does have a bit of street cred. It is listed as the 20th worst film of the year here. Otherwise it kind of falls to the wayside in a very very impressive bad movie year. It is the year of Jack and Jill, but just look at the razzies that year. Very impressive lists all around.
I’ll leave it there because we have a whole other recap to get to.