DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall

Based, believe it or not, loosely, on the Tim Powers novel, On Stranger Tides, Pirates 4 seemed about as appealing as hole in the head after the diabolical sequels to the excellent first outing. Then it was to be in 3D, scrap several key characters and shed the direction of Gore Verbinski, in favour of Chicago’s, Rob Marshall. A recipe for disaster? It seemed that way.

Though saying that, Gore had certainly sealed his fate with me, turning what was a well conceived, action adventure romp with some very memorable characters into an unnecessary epic saga which seriously missed the point and derailed itself. One dubious decision taken in the production of Dead Man’s Chest, was to keep Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly’s characters, let alone giving them so much prominence.

Knightly was fine, for the first film,. in fact, she was spot on, but she couldn’t carry the role any further and began to look ridiculous as the series progressed. This should have been the adventures of Jack Sparrow, so excellently portrayed by Johnny Depp, and Geoffrey Rush’s, Barbossa was the perfect pirate. So I was more than pleased to see the continuing adventures of these two characters, with Depp, returning to form after I felt that he had lost it in the sequels.

Penélope Cruz was another pleasant surprise, as never being a fan of her’s, I was dubious but this was casting done properly. She was more than convincing as a pirate and put Knightly’s efforts to shame. But what of Ian McShane’s Blackbeard? Well, another great showing from him, but the inexplicable magic displayed as he waves in his 3D sword around and points it at the camera to remind us that 3D is here, not so much.

But the 3D was pretty naff. You could watch most of the film without the glasses, with the effect being limited to several sequences. It looked good, it was inoffensive and unobtrusive but what was the point again? I don’t think that this film will do 3D any real harm but that’s because nobody really noticed it in the first place.

The sense of adventure from the The Curse Of The Black Pearl was evident here and long over due. I find it puzzling as to why so many reviews have been so harsh, branding it boring, overly complicated and not pulled together properly, but I would disagree. Granted, it is a bit scrappy, it’s not going to be used as case study in tight scripting, or deep character development and it is somewhat derivative, but it was fun, flashy and flamboyant.

Isn’t this what these films are all about? Depp created a classic character with Sparrow back in 2003, and tough I felt that he was a one trick pony, Sparrow that is, not Depp, this was a partial return to form, under new direction from Marshall. But I am left feeling that no matter how much I enjoyed this for what it was, the first Pirates Of The Caribbean was a film which successfully transferred a theme park ride into a career defining blockbuster, but I feel that it should have remained one film, a single triumph and not a franchise that has been saved in my eyes, by the fourth instalment.

Originally Reviewed 26th May 2011


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