Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Dir. Rob Marshall
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 128mins

These days a trilogy just isn’t complete without a fourth entry to screw up everybody’s DVD shelves of collectable boxsets. Just last month audiences were treated to Scream 4, a sequel that transcended it’s obvious grab-for-cash qualities by reuniting the original trilogy’s director, screenwriter and (surviving) stars. Horror franchises are rarely given such liberties with their fourth instalments as they usually spin off into silliness and irrelevance. Now even Hollywood blockbuster trilogies aren’t safe, even after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull irked multiple generations of new and old fans alike. Movie series’ such as the Bourne titles and X-Men are getting mutant forth entries. Does nobody respect the sanctity of the movie trilogy?

First though we get Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth instalment of the popular franchise that began on such a high of swash and buckle with The Curse of the Black Pearl and ended in excessive blather with At World’s End. Rob Marshall has picked up directing duties from Gore Verbinski, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom must still be stuck on that cliffside shack because they didn’t show up either, although Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush do return as Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa respectively. Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are still here for writing duties, but they’re clearly working on fumes as On Stranger Tides feels excessively tired and been-there-done-that in almost every regard. Apart from Penelope Cruz’s cleavage. That’s new and special. And in 3D too.

Oh, 3D. Granted, I haven’t seen Clash of the Titans, which is apparently one of the worst uses of 3D on record, but Marshall’s film marked the first time I actually sat there hating the use of this third dimensional technology. Even in films like The Green Hornet or Pixar’s work where the 3D has been used unnecessarily it was never actually flat out bad and never did I actively start to dislike the movie for using it. The tinted glasses do this film no favours whatsoever, making an already dark and interior film look decidedly darker. Unlike the James Cameron produced Sanctum, the caves of On Stranger Tides are rendered muddy and lifeless due to the 3D. There is no depth provided by the technology; in fact, I was able to take the glasses off for a good 40 minutes or so and found no issue at all.

These films are traditionally bright, colourful and vivid with their use of colour and there are stretches of On Stranger Tides that are no different with its lush, tropical greens, yellows and blues. They don’t need the extra technology to look more impressive – nature is the greatest CGI after all. It’s needless and actually disruptive to the film’s quality.

I guess I should just be thankful that this film’s running time is a much more friendly 128 minutes rather than the absurd 170 of At World’s End. Marshall certainly did well in keeping a fine eye on the editing suite, directing the shortest film of the franchise. Marshall, it must be said, as always, has delivered a film of fine technical merit – Penny Rose’s costume design is yet again the unheralded champion, can you believe she hasn’t received a single Oscar nomination for her efforts on this franchise? – but he cannot save the film from its unnecessary, rather ho-hum atmosphere.

The cast are merely going through the motions, although Rush eats so much scenery in his early scenes I was frightened he’s get indigestion! Cruz and Ian McShane make acceptable, if unremarkable, newcomers to the franchise, but Sam Clafin is no Orlando Bloom and you know something’s not right when you write that in a review.

Perhaps it’s just a case of not being able to recreate the initial sensation that came with seeing The Curse of the Black Pearl, but this franchise should just stop. Not even the trademark fight choreography or Cruz’s delicately-placed crucifix can save it. At least the endless parade of sequels that horror franchise’s get don’t cost the GDP of some small nations! The excitement, or even the vaguest of interests, has gone and it’s going to take more than a few fresh faces to get it back. C

1 comment:

Heather said...

if Roger Moore dislikes it it must be good!