Bein’ that the 19th of September be “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, as it were, and finding mine pockets laden down with a dozen pieces of eight, I took meself down to the local second-run theatre to partake in the viewin’ of the fourth movie ’bout the Pirates of the Caribbean. As circumstances had conspired to prevent me from witnessin’ the spectacle in 3D, I opted for the standard picture-showing format instead. I can’t say as it would have a tremendous difference in any case.
Seein’ the fourth movie in a series is enough to give any savvy scallywag some stirrings of trepidation. A man goes into it wonderin’ whether ‘twil hold up to the better entries in the series, particularly when the series had shown some signs of succumbing ta scurvy. Givin’ extra pause for consideration was the new helmsman, Rob Marshall, replacing Gore Verbinski, and the logical though somewhat lamentable departures of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. True, their story had come to its nat’ral conclusion, and their persons being in the film would have been out of place. But it did set me to wonderin’ if the erstwhile Captain Jack Sparrow would be nearly as entertainin’ without his favorite foils.
Fortuitously, the writers for this film saw fit to continue to pair Johnny Depp’s Sparrow with Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa. One of the savvier aspects o’ the third film was to recast their relationship from blood enemies to mere rivals, able to work together but not likin’ it overmuch. It allows the writers to pit them agin’ each other wi’out having to leave either o’ them dead at the end of it all. The additions o’ Ian McShane as an even-larger-than-life Blackbeard and Penélope Cruz as his daughter Angelica rounded out the major cast with plenty o’ chemistry for banterin’, fightin’, and double-crossin’, which is as it should be.
Sparrow, Blackbeard, Barbossa, and the English and Spanish navies are all out seekin’ the legendary Fountain o’ Youth in the fourth chapter o’ this series. It’s a good decision to start off on a new tale with this installment, as it allows the viewer to come into it without needin’ to ‘ave seen the previous films. Without belaboring every point o’ their shared histories, the narrative does a good job of reacquainting the audience with the familiar characters and introducin’ the new ones. The writers also added a ritual to the drinkin’ o’ the fountain’s waters, which provides a few more obstacles to overcome, giving them more material to write in conflicts and humor. It does raise the question of just how someone figured out the ritual to begin with, but this is a minor issue and doesn’t detract overmuch from the plot.
Also in the plot is a burgeoning romance between a missionary by the name of Phillip (Sam Claflin) who was consigned into Blackbeard’s crew, and a mermaid (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) captured by said crew. Phillip dubs the mermaid Syrena, hearkenin’ back to the old Greek myths of the Sirens, to which the mermaids in this film bear more resemblance than to friendlier examples such as Disney’s Ariel. The mermaids in this film are every bit as beautiful as legend describes, but also deadly dangerous, luring men to drown and consume them. But through his kindness, Phillip wins Syrena over to realizin’ that not all humans are bastards, and the two save each others’ lives more than once in the film. As a subplot, it is rather transparently an attempt to offer the romantic side of things that was present between Will Turner and Elizabeth in the original trilogy. It doesn’t add much to the film, in truth, but it don’t do it no real harm, neither. ‘Tis just sort of there.
The relationship between Jack and Angelica, however, was a delight to behold. Depp and Cruz play off each other very well, and it pleases me that, should there be another sequel, indications are that Angelica Teach will be a continuing presence. She starts the film masqueradin’ as Sparrow, and the deception ain’t far from the truth, as a female Sparrow she almost be. She twists the truth and lies together so readily and with such ease that even a clever man might wonder which is which with her.
Visually, o’ course, the film does its level best to impress. I can’t say as to whether any of it was shot with the idea to wow the audience viewin’ it in 3D. I can say that for the rest o’ us, it didn’t seem like it was missin’ anything. The film was full of great shots of beautiful settings, and the usual high production values of the series were on full display. Course, with Jerry Bruckheimer continuing as producer, this does come as no surprise.
At the day’s end, I did greatly enjoy this film. While it may not have quite the charm of the first film, it stands on its own feet, having at least the strengths of the second and third films without the scurvier aspects of the third. I heartily recommend it, me hearties.