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Critical mass: 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' doesn't hold water with reviewers

May 20, 2011 |  4:18 pm


Disney's trio of "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies have grossed more than $2 billion worldwide. So it's a no-brainer that Johnny Depp would strap on Capt. Jack Sparrow's boots one more time for a fourth adventure, the newly released "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

When we were last in these waters, critics threatened to mutiny, giving the franchise's third installment, "At World's End," the worst reviews of the series to date. Now that they've had some time to cool down, are they more welcoming of Depp's return to swashbuckling?


Times' critic Betsy Sharkey remains a fan of Mr. Depp and his oddball take on piracy, but she calls the rest of the movie "still not seaworthy, nor Sparrow worthy for that matter." According to Sharkey, the film's shabbiness is one of its biggest flaws. She writes, "If all that sounds like a promising place to work a lot of 3-D magic, then boy are you in for a major letdown. The Ds in this instance stand for dark and dismal and disastrously claustrophobic."

New York Times critic A.O. Scott sees the film as a big overstuffed mess: "It’s almost as if a 'Harry Potter' movie had dispensed with Harry, Ron and Hermione and devoted itself to documenting a meeting of the Hogwarts faculty." But despite his complaints, Scott seems a bit resigned to his irrelevance in the face of the "Pirates" onslaught: "People will go, and more energy will be expended parsing the box-office returns than discussing the merits of the film, which is likely to be judged entertaining enough and therefore, in the end, not much fun at all."

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips' review echoed the sentiments of many critics, who saw Oscar-winning director Rob Marshall's crowd-pleasing skills suffer in comparison to those of Gore Verbinski, the director who manned the franchise for its first three outings. Phillips writes, "Say what you will about the combined 127-hour running time of the first three, but Verbinski, particularly on the second picture, managed some creative and engaging set pieces (the giant hamster-wheel bit, for one). Dutifully, by contrast, Marshall must learn on the job, with plenty of tech support but not much on the page."

AV Club's Tasha Robinson gives Depp lots of credit for trying to save this slimmer film, but his efforts just aren't enough. She says, "For the most part, Sparrow (Johnny Depp) swaggers, swans, and swashbuckles through the center of the story, trying to fill all the narrative roles himself, which means he’s by turns cowardly and bold, selfish and self-sacrificing, an egotistical monomaniac and a tenderhearted softie. It’s like watching a one-man show where the roles keep changing."

But some prominent critics actually like the latest Jack Sparrow romp, including the Washington Post's Ann Hornaday. Once upon a time, Ann was a doubter: "A movie based on a theme park ride? How good could it be?" But today, she's a true believer and sees the new installment as worthy of the towering achievements of its predecessors. She says, "The whole of 'On Stranger Tides' could be described as appropriate, clear and neat, as first-time 'Pirates' director Rob Marshall swiftly and without fuss delivers the action set pieces and eye-popping escapism the series has come to stand for."


'Pirates': ILM delivers mermaids who are both beauty and beast

'Pirates': No cannonballs fly this time -- but is the story seaworthy?

Photos: Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz bring 'Pirates' to Cannes

— Patrick Kevin Day

Comments () | Archives (42)

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I saw the previews and I don't think it is all as bad as the movie critics are saying.
..but that is just my own opinion and critique. ;-)

Who cares what you snobbish elitist movie critics think. It was because of your reviews that i downloaded "Wrecked" for $9.99 On Demand. You need to be on crack to stay awake to watch that boring loooong movie. From now on I am listening to reviews by my peeps. ie. Normal happy folk who just want to have fun watching a light movie with good special effects and an escapist plot.
The reviews are great from my online peeps so I am taking the whole family to see it tonight.
You critics can all hang tonight and rent out Ed Wood instead

they could explore jack sparrow's background and how he became such a notorious pirate. Honestly, this same "bizzare paranormal threat derived from the pirate world threatens protagonist, jack sparrow does his savvy savvy thing and also including johnny depp and orlando bloom!" is getting repetitive pretty fast.

Where does it all lead to where it's at right now? Where is the intellectual, spiritual and emotional climax? Stories don't have this anymore because it's all about throwing a bunch of celebrities and one-trick ponies (Think the Homer Simpson's Talking Pie idea) at the screen and hoping it makes a movie.

Critics are waste of time, people who do that for a living have a pathetic life. Pirates 4 was great, sure some of the original cast wasn't there but jack still had his jokes, barbossa still had his ominous way of speaking and they built up angelica pretty well. It still had big action scenes but it focused more on the characters than the other movies which was still good. The only part i think they could have done better is the scenes with the spanish, they should have had more screen time

I personally felt like Pirates 4 was just a tragic mistake.
I try to think that it never happened, but it did.
I remember that for every Pirates movie, I get this amazing feeling of enjoyment and escapism. I always loved it.
I don't care if they put Will Turner and Elizabeth in it. It still was depressing to watch.
This fun and enjoyable trilogy, shattered because of the last film.
I was fine with new characters. In "Dead Man's Chest" they introduced Davy Jones and the East India Trading Company. Still loved it.
However, I didn't care for the new characters. Lots of blank characters going on an adventure. I felt like I was watching the Star Wars prequels!
Also, not once, did Jack Sparrow say the word "rum."
Plus, Jack wasn't wobbly anymore, he was normal.
I really wish they did better in terms of the plot because the story did have a lot of potential.
Still hoping that this was one big mistake.

I got dragged to go see this. Please save your time and money. The rapture is tomorrow, and you don't want to waste your last day on Earth with this trash. But feel free to let me know what you think...
Poll: Is 'Pirates 4' really as bad as all the reviews say?
Link: http://www.wepolls.com/r/502074

good god these movies suck

Do the Navy Seals finally take care of these annoying guys in this episode?

It might be worth watching it in that case :)

Saw the movie tonight and love it!!! To me it was the best one!!I never listen to critics i make my own mind up.

Who cares. It's Captain Jack Sparrow; savvy?

You also neglected to share the positvie reviews of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter--which are no small names in the entertainment industry as well. When will you critics "get"it--these films are for our entertainment---a fantasy for us to escape. How the LA Times can rip On Stranger Tides while liking Fast & Furious, what? number 5? is beyond me.What a piece of trash--I'll take my Capt. Jack & Barbossa anyday over that film. Thanks Disney & Depp for keeping us entertained--loved On Stranger Tides--from a critic that matters, a paying public movie-goer---two thumbs up.

I'll go see this as soon as I get my bloody money back for the 2nd two films, with interest.

I hated the last one so wasn't expecting much with the latest installment, but I really liked this 4th film. Fun and lots of adventure. I especially liked the mermaid idea. I'm surprised to see the critics were so hard on it.

critics are people who want to go and see depressing movies about people getting raped or sitting around crying all the time! this movie is great and what is most important is the fan reaction and everyone ive talked to who has seen it loved it!

and to that other commentor, he did say rum and he was drinking rum in one of the first scenes with gibbs!

Those who complain just don't like a 'change'. I thought the movie was EPIC! The music was INCREDIBLE, the plot was fresh and NEW, Jack Sparrow was still the same CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW. It was much darker but hell, the graphics and sword fights were better than ever! I'm a rabid fan of Pirates of the Caribbean and I thought movie 4 was as good as 1, 2 and 3 even without Will and Elizabeth!
Instead of 'comparing' while watching the movie. Just sit back, and enjoy it as it is. Critics seriously I have one thing to say to you:

Just don't bother watching 21st century movies.

Awasome,great movie...again johnny depp proves that he is the NO.1 ACTOR...OF NOT HOLLYWOOD..WHOLE WORLD...i love johnny depp...

I loved OST! Of course the critics hate Pirates and Johnny Depp...they always have and always will. Screw the haters! I hope they make a 5th and 6th. Johnny and Penelope were amazing as Sparrow/Angelica and I love Barbarossa and Mr Gibbs. These are the important characters to keep the story going. If you don't like the Pirates movies then stay at home! There is no need for all these people bitch and moan about it. Some people love these movies!

I saw this movie yesterday. I liked the first three, but I and the two people I saw it with agreed, this was terrible. The first two were great, the third a little less so but still entertaining, but this one was sluggish, boring, and they tried to pep it up with some romance which was thoroughly sleep-inducing. The mermaids were a very cool use of special effects, but that was a small part of the film. I can't believe how hard it was to sit through this thing-even Depp wasn't particularly charming in this one. They absolutely should have let this series die after #3.

The Critics are completely out of touch with the public, forming oppinions that don't reflect the majority of peoples feelings towards "On Stranger Tides". I just saw this movie with 3 other friends and the cinema was packed out. There was plenty of luaghter throughtout the movie and the 4 of us agreed the plot was original, well shown and entertaining. If the critics want to believe the series is failing, fine, but I would still welcome a well made Pirates Of The Caribbean 5

Saw the movies last night, and truth be told it doesn't hold water to the other three. It was almost too much Jack Sparrow( though I will always believe that Depp's portrayal of the character is truly the best of all time). He was all over the place, whereas in the previous movies his character were balanced by the semi-subplots of the other main characters. I especially was irked by Captain Barbosa, who, like Jack Sparrow, flitted fitfully in and out of scenes like the rain we've suffered through here in the DMV this past week.
I think I'll go and watch the other three movies again, and hope that if there's a fourth installment that both the actors and director can gain a little hindsight


Geez, does everything have to have an "intellectual, spiritual, and emotional climax????" What is so wrong with having something fun, nonsensical, nonreligious, nonpolitical, no moral dilema etc., etc. Lighten up! I for one will forego the Rapture and head on over to the theatre today to see my favorite pirate and not think about anything serious for awhile! Aaaarrrrggggg

I thought this movie was great. Better than the last two. It was a bit boring in the beginning, then mermaids came and I thought "What a stupid thing" then, she attacked and I went "Whoa!!!!" The movie went along very fine after that. The fountain of youth part was also very fascinating in my opinion. The only part i did not like much is the unnecessary inclusion of a pair of zombies. I don't really know why they thought that part was necessary. To the critics: Has there been any other pirate movie that people still love to watch and talk about after the release of the fourth installment?

I fell asleep just reading these reviews. The movie on the other hand is fun fun fun, Depp is AMAZING, the movie made me so happy, these reviews got me depressed and nauseous. The critics should go and find another job, one where they make people happy. Like movie makers do.

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