What started out as an intoxicating theme park ride begat a fun adventure frolic via underrated studio maven Gore Verbinski's blockbuster trilogy. Thus it was inevitable that its generation of beaucoups bucks would spawn a fourth film. How they could continue from the climax of At World's End is beyond me, and apparently beyond the team behind On Stranger Tides.Verbinski wisely backed away, instead investing in the brilliant animated film Rango.
Beginning with a wallop, then trundling along to a beaten to death tone, this new film never feels fully alive to the magic of Summer popcorn that the first three radiated. Johnny Depp has fun with his iconic character, Jack Sparrow, while Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz all ham it up on the sidelines. The technical aspects are top notch, but nothing new.
Rob Marshall comes on as helmer with a considerable weight to carry; the zest and monetary gluttony of the earlier films, all directed with a tongue in cheek panache by the deceptively mainstream Verbinski. Marshall is more of a creator of visual bombast, which would lead one to think him an ideal choice to carry on this series. But the decadent pirate designs have all been done before, so there is not much for him to work with here, save for what Verbinski left behind. Marshall himself is an underrated top dog, having made a good, if overrated debut with Chicago, then soaring from there with a golden adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha and his best work, the underrated Fellini homage Nine. With his fourth film, we find him an unfortunately slumming angel of dust.
On Stranger Tides offers exactly what theatergoers expect, all the rehashed trimmings of the first three films, minus the treasure. The high tides writhe, the adventure wanes, and we are left with the rubble of low camp.