Movie Review – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

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For the fourth time around, Johnny Depp returns to the role that turns him into an iconic fixture in movie history, Captain Jack Sparrow.  He’s still the same, flippantly flamboyant and drunkenly hysterical character that captured the hearts of fans of all ages years ago.

Among the trilogy, “Curse of the Black Pearl” has always been the most entertaining.  The grandiose special effects, sets, costume and makeup were all novelty.  The story felt fresh and colorful characters made it an exhilarating, epic adventure.

How does “On Stranger Tides” stack up?  Thankfully, it bears much resemblance to the original “Curse of the Black Pearl.” Unlike the sequels, dreaded “Dead Man’s Chest” and so-so “At World’s End,” the fun has returned!  No longer over-bloated, gone are the muddled subplots, unnecessary characters, choppy action sequences and ever-present darkness.

In “On Stranger Tides,” Captain Jack is reunited with his first-mate “Gibbs” (Kevin McNally) and “frenemy,” one-legged “Barbossa” (Geoffrey Rush).  Barbossa is now a privateer sanctioned by the crown of England, in a quest against the Spaniards for the fabled fountain of youth.

Watching Jack’s opening antics with sly quips and high-spirited escape involving a banquet table, chandelier and horse-drawn carriages, the swaggering swashbuckler is officially back.  Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, the other two main stars in the trilogy, rode off into the sunset at “At World’s End,” and are missing from this fourth installment.

Jack crosses path with a foxy beauty, former lover “Angelica” (Penelope Cruz).  Cruz, initially appearing as Jack’s impersonator, makes a notable entry in the Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Captain Jack Sparrow swordfight scene.  Angelica happens to be the daughter of the legendary, much feared Pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane).  She forces Jack into joining his father’s ship, Queen of Anne’s Revenge, so that he can provide direction to reach the eternal spring.  After a mutiny, Blackbeard makes his presence known by showing off what his magical sword and voodoo skills could do.

In order to reach the fountain of youth, sailors must sail past a sea of mermaids –  murderous mermaids with teeth as sharp as shark and vicious as predators.  The mayhem created by these mermaids is impressive.  Afterwards they must also find two silver challises, which will need to be filled with a mermaid’s tears and water.  Among the hostage-turned-crew member is a young preacher (Sam McClaflin), who ends up falling for a captured mermaid, Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey).

With Barbossa and the Spanish soldiers hot on their trail, Captain Jack, Blackbeard, Angelica and crew trek through the lush jungles and into the deep caves, culminating in a final clash to grasp the fountain of youth, although Barbossa and the Spaniards may have another motive in that pursuit.

With a straightforward story and each character serving a purpose, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is what a pirate movie should be – a swashbuckling adventure at the high seas.  The continuance of the rousing score greatly boosts the rambunctious romp.  Sit through the credits and wait for a post-closing scene, which opens up curious possibilities.

This is the first 2011 summer blockbuster experience that is enhanced by DBox motion seats at Ultrastar Theaters, where the seat movements subtly sway and rumble with the actions.  “On Stranger Tides” is just as fun as a themed park ride.

Ultra Star Cinemas is headquartered in San Diego County and operates 141 screens at 14 sites throughout Southern California and Arizona. UltraStar was the first exhibitor in the world to be equipped with D-BOX Motion Seats. D-BOX Technologies uses motion integrated within theater seats to capture some of the best action scenes in all types of movies. Feeling the action immerses the guest in the movie like never before.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at


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