Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Rating: ★★★★☆

In her 1969 essay, “Trash, Art and the Movies”, Pauline Kael said, “Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.”

What we’ve got here is a franchise that is absurd and preposterous, long and loud, silly and stupid. It has sailed to many seas and crossed numerous tides. These pirates have found treasures of all sorts and sizes, except common sense. We don’t need this franchise, but what elevates “Pirates of the Caribbean” from trash trash to great trash is that it fully recognizes its absurd, preposterous, long, loud, silly and stupid self.

I’ve always believed that dumb movies can be celebrated if it stuffs its empty brain with fun and humor. And it seems that there is not a moment in this movie where the characters treat the plot with any form of seriousness. Even when our heroes are at a state where their lives are in grave danger, they somehow manage to squeeze in a punch line and laugh, and we are invited to laugh with them.

Blood and alcohol, mostly alcohol, run through his veins. Yes, Captain Jack Sparrow has returned for a new adventure. This time, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are nowhere to be found. Their long-awaited absence has paved way for an actor whose character actually requires some skills for acting. His name is Ian McShane, and he plays the notorious and naughty Blackbeard.

Because he never seems to change his clothes, Jack Sparrow is a pirate who is easily identified, and he is captured by the soldiers of London. When he is confronted by King George II, Sparrow learns that his former nemesis, Barbossa, is no longer a pirate and is now working for royalty. Also, Barbossa is missing a leg, but that’s a whole other story.

Also, word is out that the location of the mythical Fountain of Youth is discovered, and after Sparrow escapes imprisonment, a three-way race between the English, the Spanish, and the Pirates ensue. First one to show up at the fountain receives an extra long life. Along the way, we see some really cool stuff. During our first night on Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, a mutiny is lead by Captain Sparrow, which sadly fails. Blackbeard is not pleased, and we soon learn that his sword can control the ship really well, so ropes all around tie themselves around the unfortunate crew and they are suspended in the air for punishment. Hold on. Since Blackbeard has complete control of his ship, why does he need a crew to scrub his filthy deck in the first place? Because he is evil. That’s why.

Also, I must say that the Queen Anne’s Revenge has a flamethrower, which Blackbeard effectively uses in one of the film’s most thrilling sequences involving dozens of pretty, sexy, man-eating mermaids.

All of these moments are a visual treat, and are lots of fun. Compared to the other sequels, “On Stranger Tides” even uses less special effects and features a less complicated plot. And the additional energy provided by Blackbeard and Angelica, Jack’s former lover, gives new life previously drained by Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. The changes are good, but I have reason to believe that the factor that makes this franchise afloat is that wily, charming Jack Sparrow.

I think most people like Jack Sparrow because he demonstrates a kind of freedom that we all desire to live out every once in awhile. Also, he talks like a drunk and runs like an idiot, which makes everything all the more fun when he’s battling against those sexy, man-eating mermaids.


  1. It wasn’t that good… I hoped for more action just like in the other ones but it was slow and obviously only made for money… And we don’t need another SAW franchise….

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides