Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides A.K.A. Mermaids, Zombies, Blackbeard!

Arr. It be a good enough film.

So imagine you’re a mermaid, right? The top half of you is insanely hot. Your hair’s got that sexy, just-came-out-of-the-shower thing going on, maybe the smallest strand of it is stuck to your face. The buoyancy of the water means that your breasts are always bouncing, and somehow your skin never gets pruny. The bottom half of you is kind of fishy, but you’re still fully capable of holding intelligent conversation, of making rational choices, and, most importantly, of feeling human emotion. Look, I understand that you and I are different, but do you seriously have to devour us regular folk? I mean honestly. I don’t eat other people, and do you know why? Because I like talking to them! Because I empathize with them. Because they’re my friends. For god’s sake, there’s a crapload of reasons I don’t eat people. And I don’t see why mermaids should be any different.

Plus, when mermaids are out of the water, their somewhat-less-than-attractive fish tails magically go away and turn into alluring lady parts. On land, they’re completely human! All I’m saying is instead of cannibalistically devouring us homo sapiens, they should just eat fish or something—I’m sure there’s a way. I mean, one of the mermaids is even the center of the main love story. You can’t have it both ways, Pirates of the Caribbean. Either they’re horrible sea monsters who just use their charm to feed, or they’re sexy, briny, love trout. The only way I can even begin to make sense of this, and the movie doesn’t give us much to go on, mind you, is that the mermaids were the guardians of the fountain of youth, and the only reason they were killing people was because they knew these were bad men who would use the fountain for their own, evil ends.

Phew. So as you may or may not have gathered, this new installment of Pirates is about the quest for the fountain of youth, which so happens to be located on an island surrounded by lovely, fangy mermaids. Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and the Spaniards (various) are all racing to be the first to unlock the power of the fountain, and these mermaids are hell bent on stopping them. The only person they don’t attempt to kill is a missionary (Sam Claflin). The reason I spent so long ranting about this is not because I disliked the mermaids. Quite the contrary. The mermaid love story was, in my opinion, the most touching and interesting part of the film. The major players were acted expertly, mind you, but they just didn’t have good story arcs. Ian McShane made a menacing Blackbeard, but his character was one note and weak. Geoffrey Rush is one of the best actors of our day, and he lent a great deal of formidability to Captain Barbossa, but his story is nothing compared to his quest to free himself from the Curse of the Black Pearl. And we’ve already seen so much of the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Sure, he’s great and all, but it’s the random missionary and his mermaid lover (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) who manage to capture our imaginations.

Aww, look how cute she is when she's not eating you.

Other than the love story, which feels almost tacked on, this movie is very simple, which is actually a good thing! After a great start to this series, the sequel and threequel were huge letdowns. Each became more mired in its sense of the grandiose. The plots became a tangled jumble of unrelated elements, each more confusing than the last. Impossibly hard to follow, these sequels left audiences with nothing but Johnny Depp’s charm and a good deal of sword fighting. Here, though, the plot is straightforward. Three different groups are racing toward the same goal, and everything comes together nicely. Yet, for all their effort, the film lacks a certain something. The story structure is there, but there’s just no magic to it. Because things are so clearly foreshadowed, there’s no mystery, no surprise, and this makes it nigh impossible to become emotionally invested. I almost nodded off at the beginning, but by the end all I could say was, “Well done, I guess. Things did sort of come together there, didn’t they?”

At least most of the basic plot made sense, because if you start digging a little deeper, this movie is riddled with details that do not add up to two licks of a wench’s tongue on Tuesday. In fantasy, you’re allowed to invent some things, but On Stranger Tides goes too far. In the first film, for example, there’s a curse that causes men to live forever, but their bodies wither away, turning to skeletons. That’s the one example of magic that drives the whole story. Here, however, the writers throw in an endless barrage of unexplained mysteries. Why does Blackbeard’s ship have giant flamethrowers? I don’t think they had that kind of technology back then. And I’ll grant Blackbeard a sword that lets him magically control his rigging, but how does that translate to his being able to capture real life ships in tiny bottles? For that matter, how is Blackbeard able to create zombie deckhands that can’t be killed? And why doesn’t he have more of them? And why is it never important to the story?

"Woah. Watch Where You Point That Thing: An in depth analysis of Blackbeard compensating for something."

Things may not hold together completely, but there’s still a lot to love. This is definitely the 2nd best Pirates movies and will provide a bit of fun for those who decide to go. Thanks to the expert acting, a reasonably well-plotted story, and some compelling missionary mermaid action, I give Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides:

Score: 3.5/5¢

Alignment: Standard Fluff

Mermaids are just too hot for me to believe they’re killing those poor guys. Hot girls can’t possible have bad intentions, right? Maybe they’re just dragging them underwater to the love kelp?

Written by Russ Nickel

8 Comments

Filed under Review

8 responses to “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides A.K.A. Mermaids, Zombies, Blackbeard!

  1. Oh, I totally disagree with you.
    First this is not the 2nd best pirate movie, shure the others are not that great but this…doesn’t top any of them. Second, what?are you serious?The plot is straighforward, but lame. First is like, ‘oh, the spanish people are looking for something” then they never appear again, only in the end to ruin everything (the spanish are not happy)!The 3 storys are not interesting. Barbossa is of no use in this film, the love story is ridicolous, the guy is not hot (i’m a girl by the way) and the mermaid is so innocent and like you said, she eats him in the end!Johnny depp is the only thing that saves the movie, still, the chase in the beggining is too long and annoying. Blackbeard is ok, but like you said, they say “he does magical stuff” and they give no explanation for that, still, is a pretty cool magical stuff. (not the zombies, but the ships in a bottle are cute)
    I had so many expectations and the movie didn’t live to them at all…is sad.

  2. Haha, I suppose you’re right. I just prefer a somewhat lame but straightforward plot to the overcomplicated previous 2. I guess I’m biased about the missionary guy since I liked him so much in Pillars of the Earth, and at least the mermaid was hot.

    Did you really think she ate him? I was hoping she could turn him into a merman or something. You know, trying to optimistic.

    Either way, thanks for the great comment!

  3. Lucy

    I thought the film was really good and I agree that I was a bit confused to how Blackbeard had all these powers, they could have explained that. :L
    No the mermaid didn’t eat him because in the film when they are sitting in the boat waiting for the mermaids to catch one, the one guy says something like “I hear that if a mermaid kisses you, you will never drown” or something like that, and at the end she kisses him so he could like live underwater with her, at least I think, but why would she kiss him if she was going to eat him? Why not just drag him down screaming? lol, well I hope she didn’t eat him I kind of wanted them to live happily ever after and everything :)

    • Oh wow, I totally missed that line! Thanks so much, Lucy! All my friends think he got eaten and I keep arguing with them and telling them it’s the happy end to a love story, but I didn’t have any good evidence! I really wanted them to live happily ever after too, and now you’ve made it much more arguable. Woooo!

  4. Lucy

    Glad it helped in your case :)

  5. A C Denth

    I agree that it doesn’t make sense to have them mermaids being both evil and good as they are depicted in the movie. Their evilry at the full moon bay made it very difficult for me to feel sympathy and compassion in the scenes with Serena and the missionary, it just didn’t make sense! I don’t mind them being evil but as a spectator I must understand their purpose. I understand that some things are not explained because it’s a “mystery” but in the movie this merely comes off as pure and utter silliness. They should sell the mermaid story to the audience with some background story. In the prior movies we had a Tia Dalma explaining the situation and this movie had pretty much nothing.

    I also really miss a good character development in the movie and those witty sub-stories that were in the prior movies. Look for example at the negotiation scene between Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and Elizabeth Swan when he beholds her and says “… Ah, so you do know about the compass!”, it shows how Beckett reads Elizabeth’s mind and is actually thinking. The prior movies have managed to show that the characters are contemplative and they have an intelligence, they also interact with each other non-verbally and try to figure each other out as the plot progresses. That really blew my mind in the prior movies and I was disappointed with not finding any of this in this movie. There was this scene with Pintel and Ragetti escaping the prison in the second movie, heading towards the shore of the Pelagostos island on a small rowing boat with that dog who had the key to the prison cells in his mouth. It is a deviating scene but it is scenes like these that makes you get to know the characters and these scenes were something that I really appreciated with these movies. Also, a good character development makes it easier at least for me to root for them and laugh with them in those humorous moments. It’s not the joke you laugh at, its the _character_.

    One other thing that I appreciate with this franchise is that there is no such thing as good and evil or black and white, only different shades of gray. People are not good or evil in the movies, they only have their own agendas, for good or for worse. Particularly mind blowing for me was when Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) chose different paths in the different movies. This was to some degree demonstrated in this movie.

    Overall, I really like this franchise but I was quite disappointed with the fourth installment. It had a too simplistic and unexplanatory storyline that came off as pretty dumb rather than mysterious. It felt like an ordinary “treasure hunt” story ripped off from Cutthroat Island or something. As a movie per se I wouldn’t say it is bad but as a $250m budget movie I would say it is pretty abysmal.

  6. I really liked the first Pirates, and the rest were so-so. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not terrible, just not as good as the first one.
    The soundtrack was pretty freaking awesome though.

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