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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D(2011)
Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.
For more about Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D and the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray release, see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally (I), Sam Claflin
Director: Rob Marshall
» See full cast & crew
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray Review
Disney's 3D presentation succeeds in spite of itself. The fourth Pirates film? Not so much...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 8, 2011
I had high hopes for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. While The Curse of the Black Pearl was an absolute blast, Dead Man's Chest amounted to a bloated, beached corpse and At World's End was little more than a flashy misfire. Each one had its moments, sure. But there were so many competing plots, subplots and sub-subplots, not to mention double, triple and quadruple crosses, that neither one thrilled or entertained audiences as much as Pearl. But everyone from producer Jerry Bruckheimer to leading man Johnny Depp approached the fourth film with the same candid assurance: On Stranger Tides wasn't just a relaunch designed to recapture the magic of the first film, it was an apology of sorts for having sailed into such muddy sequel waters. Yet somehow, by some strange fate, voodoo incantation or pirate's curse, On Stranger Tides isn't the return to form we were promised. On the contrary, it's slower, duller, more cumbersome, more distended, and more unnecessary and extraneous than both Pirates sequels combined. I'm sure it all sounded exciting on paper -- castle escapes, London carriage chases, zombies, Captain Jack teaming up with Captain Barbosa, flame-spewing ships, Blackbeard and the Queen Anne's Revenge, mermaid attacks, Ponce de Leon's lost ship, the Fountain of Youth -- but, with fish-out-of-water director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) at the helm, the fourth Pirates film gets lost at sea.
Gore Verbinski? Out. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley? Nowhere to be found. Johnny Depp? It seems good ol' Captain Jack earned himself a promotion, albeit to the detriment of the franchise. Don't get me wrong, Depp's Jack Sparrow is a brilliant creation; an iconic swashbuckling opportunist who's every bit as funny, charming and devious as he ever was. But when he appears in nearly every single scene, it isn't long before the dear dreadlocked cap'n wears out his welcome. The real spotlight, then, turns to Geoffrey Rush, as series mainstay Captain Barbosa, and casting coup Ian McShane, who fills the role of the most merciless Pirates villain to date: the scourge of the seven seas himself, Blackbeard. Between Rush and McShane, the film finds its sea legs and brandishes some of the scene-chewing flair the Pirates films are known for. Alas, Penélope Cruz, hiding one stage of pregnancy or another throughout the shoot, bears her teeth as Blackbeard's daughter, Angelica, but rarely bites (although, to be fair, I'm sure the baby-on-board prevented her from doing much more); newcomers Sam Clafin and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, as a missionary and a captured mermaid who fall in love, compete for the Turner-Swan award but drown in a flood of more colorful supporting actors; Keith Richards appears and quickly disappears as Jack's father, without so much as a "sorry 'bout that" for the wasted cameo; and Marshall -- poor, well-intentioned Rob Marshall -- is out of his depth, overwhelmed by countless visual effects, sprawling set pieces and action sequences, and the sheer magnitude of the production. (And concedes as much in his director's commentary.)
And so the burden falls to returning franchise screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott. Never mind the fact that Rossio and Elliott were responsible for the convoluted storylines that nearly wrecked Dead Man's Chest and At World's End. Never mind that a true return to form would have, at the very least, tapped fresh scribes; new writers tasked with streamlining what had become an ungainly mythos. Instead, Rossio and Elliot are handed the keys to the kingdom and, once again, over-write and under-deliver. Jack is hired by King George II to find the Fountain of Youth. No, he escapes and sets out to find it on his own... in a race against Barbosa (the King's second choice), a fleet of Spanish warships led by King Ferdinand's right hand man (Óscar Jaenada) and, soon enough, Blackbeard and Angelica, who force Jack to help them recover two silver chalices required to make the Fountain of Youth do its thing. Did I mention Blackbeard has a thing for voodoo and keeps a few hulking zombies in his service? Or that he's a master doll craftsman? Or that his sword can steer his ship and make it string up mutineers with a wave of its hilt? Or that most everything seems to happen for little to no reason, other than: "Oooh! Salty voodoo pirates, scantily scaled mermaids and ships trapped in magic bottles! We haven't seen this before!"
Before Blackbeard and Angelica can take advantage of the Fountain's power, though, they need a mermaid tear. And there's no sense in getting a mermaid tear if a mermaid can't join the team... and there's no sense in a mermaid joining the team if she isn't befriended by someone, and there's no sense in such a beautiful creature being befriended, and there's this missionary Blackbeard keeps alive for no good reason, and it only makes sense that he would take a liking to the mermaid (even though she and her kind revealed themselves to be ruthless sirens with a penchant for devouring hapless men), and if the missionary wins the heart of a girl then Jack has to have a conquest of his own, and if Jack needs a bit of romance in his life, and if Angelica is available... frankly, it's exhausting. Where is the breezy storytelling of Curse of the Black Pearl? The brisk adventure? The snappy dialogue? The easily digested exposition? The thrills? The intrigue? The mystery? Even when On Stranger Tides talks (and talks and talks and talks) a decent game, it comes undone the moment a sword battle erupts, a London street chase unfolds, high-flying tree to tree hijinks unfurl, a pack of mermaids attack, a see-sawing ship threatens to plunge off a cliff, or a hundred men, one feisty female and a mermaid (who appears as if from nowhere) somehow converge on the same mystical hotspot only to fight an all out war and smash a few rocks. (Don't ask.) At every turn, the resulting action hobbles, limps and shuffles along until Marshall puts it out of its misery. Even then, he never quite seems sure when he should pull the trigger. The entire film is sluggish, chunky around the waist, and the speed and surprise of previous entries is all but gone. Say what you will about Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, they at least knew how to stage a gripping showdown or two.
If it's any consolation, Depp, Rush and McShane make the whole mess more tolerable. Depp is wildly inventive and fiendishly witty (even if a slight malaise haunts his now-familiar routine), Rush stuffs gem after gem into his pockets with sneering showmanship, and McShane is a force to be reckoned with (often in spite of the distracting inconsistencies and indifference that plagues his character). And for every Cruz or Clafin slog, there's a scene-stealing bit of comic relief with Kevin McNally (returning for his fourth installment as the inexplicably loyal Joshamee Gibbs), Snatch's Stephen Graham (as a perpetually amused pirate named Scrum) and Richard Griffiths (as King George). Together, they keep the Pirates torch lit and suggest a fifth film could steer the franchise back on course. That would require a few things, though. A director who's more experienced with sweeping action and visual effects, writers willing to trim the fat and put Captain Jack back in the passenger seat, and a story with more weight, spirit and adventure. Then, and only then, will Pirates of the Caribbean be what it once was. On Stranger Tides isn't a breath of fresh sea air; it's the worst in the series, one of the most disappointing blockbusters of the year, and one of the more uneventful event-driven sequels to come along in some time. It's watchable, I'll say that much, but it isn't very memorable. And, with an unforgettable character like Captain Jack front and center, that's a major problem.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
First things first: while On Stranger Tides was filmed in native 3D, not every scene in Disney's 1080p/MVC-encoded transfer has that patented 3D pop we've all come to know and love. (And pay for.) Dismal London cityscapes, dank underworld haunts, foggy ships' decks, shadowy harbors, ominous caves... not exactly playgrounds of 3D depth and dimensionality. Still, even the film's darkest scenes aren't as flat and poorly defined as similar scenes in Clash of the Titans 3D, Green Lantern 3D and other misadventures in post-conversion. Swords jut through the shadows, mermaids rise out of the water, masts loom overhead, and Ian McShane towers over his crew, all reasonably well. Yes, at night. Yes, in the haze. Yes, deep underground. But when the sun rises? Wow. Sun-beat jungles and white sand beaches extend believably into the distance, pirates trail off into three-dimensional expanses, and leaves, foliage, branches, blades, flintlock pistols, venomous snakes, mystical compasses, sneering zombies and silver chalices push out of the screen. Actually, the difference is quite staggering; a fact that will no doubt lead some to criticize some of the more problematic 3D sequences. The only shots worth criticizing, though, are those that suffer from ghosting, a problem that appears every few minutes, albeit in the backgrounds and only in brief bursts. Fortunately, each instance is fairly minor, meaning 3D videophiles have little to worry about.
Meanwhile, color accuracy and skintone saturation are excellent throughout, primaries have tremendous power (when given the opportunity), black levels are rich and satisfying, and contrast ranges from delightfully dreary to suitably savory to downright stunning. Fine detail rises and sets with the sun, sure, but there isn't any smearing or unintended softness on display. (The rare exception being a series of closeups of Syrena in the jungle. A bit of DNR has been applied, albeit by Marshall and his crew in post. The anomaly was visible in the film's digital theatrical presentation as well.) Textures are refined and exceptionally well-resolved (even when darkness presses in), edge definition is crisp and clean (without any significant ringing) and delineation is as revealing (or secretive) as Wolski intended. Shadows are heavy but hardly ever blot out the production design, night falls fast without completely consuming the environments, and the light fades without leaving the backgrounds to languish in its absence. Naturally, the result is an uneven presentation -- one scene will wallow in shadow while the very next scene will leap off the screen -- but only in the sense that the film's photography is purposefully uneven. Serious artifacting, banding, aliasing and crush are held at bay, and there really isn't any technical issues to speak of. Needless to say, On Stranger Tides looks great in 2D and 3D. Any Pirates fan worth their sea salt will be pleased, especially when Jack, Angelica and Blackbeard set out through the jungle in search of Ponce de León's ship.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
No ship to ship battles, no canon fire, no grand supernatural spectacles. What's left for an able-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track to do? Plenty apparently. Disney's lossless beastie belches fire, reigns destruction and brings On Stranger Tides roaring to sea-splitting life without so much as a single mishap or issue. It's flawless, me mateys, and every bit as powerful and immersive as its Pirates predecessors. Dialogue is brisk, lively and perfectly intelligible for start to finish, even admist all the tower explosions, mermaid attacks and surging seas. Sword clashes clang beautifully and ring true, wood splinters and stone cracks with weighty ease, and low-end elements make their presence known. (And then some.) LFE output is explosive and nuanced, rear speaker activity is aggressive and subtle, directional effects are head-turning and convincing, dynamics are startling and entrancing. Disney's lossless mix does it all, soaring to every height and diving to every depth the film's sound design requires. And Hans Zimmer's score? It belts out each dun dun dun dah dah! with a hearty laugh of multi-channel glee and sings an alluring mermaid song with soft, almost fragile effortlessness. It all comes together in one amazing 7.1 channel lossless track that stands proudly alongside its franchise brethren.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In addition to 2D and 3D versions of the film, the 3D edition of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides includes a third Blu-ray disc packed with a variety of high definition extras. (The 2D-only release offers an audio commentary, a blooper reel and an animated Lego short. Nothing more.) It isn't exactly exhaustive, mind you, but the inclusion of a production documentary, a series of featurettes, several deleted scenes, and other bonus materials make the 5-disc On Stranger Tides 3D release the way to go, regardless of whether or not you have a 3D-capable display. If, that is, you feel an additional 75-minutes of special features are worth the 3D edition's higher price. Decisions, decisions.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
On Stranger Tides goes down with the ship without ever conjuring up enough magic to revitalize the franchise. Pirates of the Caribbean still has enormous box office draw, but if the current trend continues, you have to wonder how many more sequels audiences will gulp down before seeking out sweeter waters. Thankfully, Disney's 3D release has a few things going for it. A solid 3D presentation and an even stronger 2D transfer gets the Blu-ray edition off to a striking start, a top tier DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track sweetens the deal, and a satisfying selection of extras -- 75-minutes of which are exclusive to the 5-disc 3D combo pack -- tops it all off nicely. If On Stranger Tides shivers your timbers (or does something else pirate-y and punny), picking up the 3D edition is a no-brainer. Unless you aren't a fan of 3D or special features, in which case the 2D release should suit you just fine.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Other Editions
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• Interview: VFX Supervisor Ben Snow, Pirates of the Caribbean: On ... - September 15, 2011
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• Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D - July 14, 2011
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