Review: Disney's 'Pirates of the Caribbean 4' Just a Lame Cash Grab

May 20, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

When did the Pirates of the Caribbean movies become so convoluted? It was a shock in 2003 when Curse of the Black Pearl came out and wasn't awful. In fact, it was an adventurous, exciting time at the movies that played above and beyond the cash grab idea of Disney turning a theme park ride into a feature film. Then Dead Man's Chest provided the stuffing for that perfectly baked goose. Even still, the balance between grand imagery, exciting battles, and expansive story-telling was in check. It wasn't until At World's End that it all seemed to be out of control. Now, with the fourth and latest film of the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, a decision was made to hold back. At least on the expensive visuals.

But words on a page are cheap. Dialogue, exposition, plot turns, and catty banter is cheap, and it's something On Stranger Tides piles on in droves. In fact, it's so piled on, coupled with a jerky, kitschy, and at times graceless directing style from Rob Marshall, that this latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie looks and feels exactly what the movie-watching world feared Curse of the Black Pearl would be eight years ago. An unabashed cash grab.

The synopsis of the film should be quite simple. Johnny Depp has returned as Captain Jack Sparrow, the often-slurred speech and sun-stroked pirate who is as charming as he is circuitous. This time he's in search of the famed Fountain of Youth, but he's not the only on this quest. The Spanish, the British, even the "pirate all pirates fear" Blackbeard, played here by Ian McShane, are on the trail. See? Simple, right.

Well, leave it to returning screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio to complicate these narrative matters about as much as Jack Sparrow complicates any given situation he's in. Deceptions and side-turning abounds in On Stranger Tides to the point where people are fighting with swords, and you really aren't sure why. Maybe it has something to do with pirates always being out for themselves and no one else, but somewhere in the mire of the dialogue and exposition, buried way down underneath the verbal brambles we have to trek through, Elliott and Rossio to think they've gotten across to their audience perfectly.

And maybe much of that can be excused - it certainly was in Dead Man's Chest and At World's End to an extent - if the overall adventure is thrilling, if the action set pieces are worthy of blockbuster filmmaking, and if there's a weight to any of the characters involved. None of these are the case. Instead, we're offered a sword fight here, a chase through the streets of London there, and a mermaid attack to toy with us that something more exciting might be just on the horizon. But none of these moments are allowed to play simply or naturally. There always has to be additional beats thrown in to fluff up the run time. At one point Sparrow is being forced to jump off a cliff, but instead of just jumping or being pushed, we have to sift through banter, then threats, then a lame version of Russian roulette, then more banter, then a Voodoo doll shows up. You just want the guy to friggin' jump!

Of course, much of these action scenes could be commendable from a visceral stand-point if they were well shot. Thank you, Rob Marshall, for not even giving us that. Much of the action is shot in horrendous close-ups, usually in dark areas to make it impossible to differentiate between the characters, and sometimes he even has a tendency of trying to shoot action around foreground objects. An early sword fight between Sparrow and someone impersonating him has more than a few basement beams and wine barrels to completely impede the audience's view. It's like parts of the movie walked off the screen and sat themselves right in front of you in the theater, only you can't move your head to look around them.

Little can be said in Depp's - or anyone else in this movie - favor. It's a phoning in of a performance the likes of which we've yet seen from him, but the good news is he's the main character this time around. There's no Will or Elizabeth to play Luke or Leia to his Han Solo, and a ceaseless Jack Sparrow is one of the last things the Pirates franchise needed.

This time around, though, he has Penelope Cruz to play off. She plays Angelica, a female pirate whose motives might not be altruistic. Hey, she's a pirate. And though the two are given moments here and there with which to build a connection, it never takes hold. They end up coming off like two balls in a pinball machine clanging against one another and making all kinds of unbearable racket as they go.

McShane seems lost playing the one-dimensional Blackbeard, the very epitome of a thinly constructed movie villain. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbossa, and he's fine here even if Elliott and Rossio appear to have not idea what they were to do with him. There's a budding romance between Sam Claflin's Philip, a priest, and Astrid Berges-Frisbey's Syrena, a mermaid, but the chivalrous nature Philip shows the captured Syrena is forced to say the very least. As soon as he screams at her captors that "SHE HAS A NAME!", you just want to smack someone.

At least a smack would have been something more exciting than what On Stranger Tides has to offer. It's convoluted and tacky, and it has an ongoing tendency to bury the audience's attention with needless narrative outgrowths. A straight-forward pirate adventure full of ship battles - nary a cannon is fired in the entire movie - and melees would have been a much welcomed change of pace for the Pirates franchise. But that's not what we get with On Stranger Tides. We get bland action, frustrating plot points, and the lamest Jack Sparrow we've seen on screen. It's enough to make you thankful you're not a pirate.

Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10

Find more posts: Opinions, Review



 Sounds like someone was tired by the second and third films. How could you possibly come out of this one liking it? 

Thanos on May 20, 2011


 hey are u mad.....still wat more u want from a movie ...... the movie was suuuuuuperrrrrrrrr........ here lot of whistles and cheers in theatres .... absolute rocking performance by johny depp .......

Anandhakumarceg on May 20, 2011


 I would expect that from a person with cotton in their skull, to a simpleton the movie is good.

Hannah on May 20, 2011


People, people and people. These movies are made for people like these people.  

Zack Snyder on May 20, 2011


exactly. The movie was gr8. there was whistles every minute. It is a hit in India. I liked it. Though less action but good performance... Not at alll boring

Raj_xmx on May 20, 2011


I don't rate it as low as this review but i definitely dont think it lives up to POTC standards

Casey Carroll on May 20, 2011


 This guy always gives bad reviews to the big name movies.

Chip_Tha_Ripper on May 20, 2011


 Maybe because most of the big name movies are pretty bad..low standards don't make a film good...

Honestly on May 21, 2011


 i think the problem, is that jack is the main character... i think there should of been a main character and there story, like will and liz, and jack floats in and out of their story, while still stealing every scene, and using them to ultimately work things for his benefit... 

Rossmalloch on May 20, 2011


That's what most people I've heard seem to think and yes I'd have to agree myself. Overall the film was alright but things just felt so underdeveloped.Also the romance between Philip and Syrena?It had potential to be great but it was unnecessary.Even as individuals Philip was underdeveloped and Syrena was completely undeveloped.So were several other things but those ones are the only that comes to mind at the moment.

Bsutter on Aug 27, 2011


I actually enjoyed this.. I found it had the right formula and the visuals and characters were fun and not OTT. What were you expecting? It was much better than 3... and the Mermaid sequence was fantastic. Yes I would agree, Jack is getting a little old school now, he needs to step it up a bit. I would still recommend it. Fun times.

Dominic on May 20, 2011


Im a Huge fan of 2 and 3, even more than 1. This was atrocious. You have been warned.

Lane on May 20, 2011


I have seen Pirates of the Caribean on strange Tides. And agree with some of Jermey Kirk comments he has made I loved the Pirates 1&2 the third was crap the story was all over the place, has for the fourth installment of the franchise to sum it up the story ain't that good Ian Mcshane Isn't evil enough he's like a big teddy bear.. the banter between Rush and Depp is the best in the whole film they are some good set peaces chaising through London, army after JS. but the action scense are jerky like if anyone rembers Ternminator Rise of the Machines. you would know what I mean, when JS it crossing from one horse Carrage to Another the whole movment is jerky.. Also the SFX I'm sorry to Say For ILM have been Rushed.. the other complaint I have about the film, the film seems to have been rushed and a lot less care taken over it to get it wright like the first film in the franchise. Weather that was down to money Restraints "I Don't Know" all in all to me a big disapointment to me Depp and Rush and the guy how plays Gibbs are the best ... Cruz Crap.. JS/Barbosa, Gibbs are only the ones from the original Cast.. that another disapointment.

Excel on May 20, 2011


I defiantly agree with you and Jerry. Cruz...just cant play this roll. I was all dressed up as a pirate for this movie only to be let down.  I really enjoy watching these movies over and over but left cant find no reason to want to watch this one again. If they come out with another one I sure do hope they bring back all of Jack's old crew and throw out the new ones. Sorry Rob Marshall you really made Johnny Depp look bad and he is a great actor. Try spending a lil more money then you may have another great movie like the first one. Thnk for nothing

Tinkerbell Ortiz on May 20, 2011


 I love the original three, flaws and all, but this film was offensively bad. Completely agree. The Spanish were completely unnecessary, Barbosa didn't do anything, Blackbeard wasn't scary, fight scenes had no weight to them. There were no stakes and no antagonism. There was no point to anything that happened, no reason for Jack to even be on the journey. The tacked on love story almost made me walk out of the theater. The voodoo/zombies would have been cool had it amounted to anything. All the prophecies and mermaids and other supernatural stuff felt forced, uninteresting, uninspired, and was explained away in one line of dialogue. Oh, and don't even get me started on how frustrated I was that I waited through all the credits for a 2 second pointless scene that made our entire audience groan. I'm actively trying to get everyone I know not to see this film.

Rops on May 20, 2011


 What about the score by Hans Zimmer? Does it rock?

Felix Naumann on May 20, 2011


 Does Zimmer ever not rock?

Rops on May 20, 2011


Question was if the rock was Soft or Hard. 

Zack Snyder on May 20, 2011


Touché. But he said about the At World's End score, that he let a bit loose and wanted to go with a last great hurrah – which I really think he did and you can easily tell. The film aside, the score is just bold and fantastic. The question in terms of the pirates films would then be: where did he go from there?

Felix Naumann on May 20, 2011


 Also, I'd like to point out that since the attack on Port Royal in Black Pearl, there has been absolutely zero pirating in the Pirates movies. I want to see some pillaging and plundering darn it!

Rops on May 20, 2011


sorry but I think you lashed out pretty hard on a film that doesn't try to be anything more but a fun summer-blockbuster flick. the way you review this, I'd hate to see how you'd review Raiders of the Lost Ark if it were to come out today.

Andiana on May 20, 2011


 Raiders Of The Lost Ark is by far one of the best screenplays ever written.

Rops on May 20, 2011


Agree on that.

Ryderup on May 20, 2011


I stopped reading when you compared Bloom and Knightley to Luke and Leia and Depp to Solo. How do you write for a movie review site? Why do I keep coming here?

Tra la la la la di da on May 20, 2011


 Orlando Blooms absence was the best thing about part 4!

Dominic on May 20, 2011


 Hey!! This is NOT Black Swan, or The King's Speech! If you go see it and you have a good time then the ppl involved in the making of this movie have done the job. If on the other hand you cannot sit through a movie without picking it apart...I feel bad for you. It's like the Star Wars movies. Yea, you know there are some parts that are a little iffy and sure they could have done this or that better but man, it's a lot of fun to watch Star Wars. 'nuff said.

Lotustar on May 20, 2011


I cannot agree 100% with you. I’m not a fan of pirates but the movie was very entertaining and Funny. I was laughing in the movie theater at some scene of Jack Sparrow. And also I agree that some part was lame to watch. I fell in love with Syrena character, I think this is the only NEW character I really like. I was waiting to see more about her in the movie than Angelica character. 

EfrainR on May 20, 2011


"They end up coming off like two balls in a pinball machine clanging against one another and making all kinds of unbearable racket as they go." Nice one.

Voice of Reason on May 20, 2011


 "Review: Disney's 'Pirates of the Caribbean 4' Just a Lame Cash Grab" Gee...ya think? LOL.

norm on May 20, 2011


Geez a lot of you are a bunch of kill joys. Simpletons? So no one can have a good time watching any movie? Anyway, it's just a movie opening up the summer with some laughs, not some new revelation. If you disliked it that much, your expectations were too high. My favorite movie was the 2nd then the 1st and the part I liked in the 3rd movie was the scene between Calypso and Davy Jones in the jail cell and the lockets. I adore that tune and both together was lovely. I actually want to see the movie and don't expect it to be the best movie of all time in the history of mankind. Oh, well, I guess I'll go put on my angry mask and watch the movie like oh so many of you have done.

Not a Kill Joy on May 20, 2011


 Or not 🙂 excited mask sounds better. Toodles.

Not a Kill Joy on May 20, 2011


 Definitely not my favorite in the franchise.....

Casey Carroll on May 20, 2011


Casey really wants everyone to click on his link, guys. Come on, show him some love. He must really have some insightful comments to make if he's plugging his blog so much. To Casey's blog!! 

casey at the bat on May 20, 2011


Imperfect but fun and not as convoluted as At World's End. Yes problems exist here and I totally totally agree that they don't know what to do with Barbossa (though the ending was a good idea that left me smiling) and the Spaniards could have been left out completely.  Further, I couldn't stand Cruz (who told he she could act) but I absolutely loved every minute with Blackbeard even if he was one dimensional. The mermaid plot device was tolerable if it wasn't for the romance they tried to shoe horn in.Wouldn't call it a cash grab but it was enjoyable in that it made up for how terrible 3 was. On Stranger Tides in the vein of the first even if it never gets very close to that level of quality. Love that Gibbs is becoming more prominent. If anyone's interested:

Anonymous on May 20, 2011


I think if you're under 12yo, you'll see this and screw the critics. 

ML on May 20, 2011


what i do, is go to the theater when its empty, so im not influenced by other peoples opinions & Listen I'm a huge fan of all 4 original movies, yes i agree this one fell a little shorter than the original, (which is the one it should be compared to) but i blame it one hundred percent on the budget cut... This I Is The Smallest Budget They Have Worked With !!! The crowded scenes, horrible voice over work, and dialog was sad... but the story was incredible and the the new characters were fresh, i think what a lot of people don't understand is that this movie is showing an older, matured more stale returning cast with a fresh period when pirates were kind of being flushed out... and its hard getting use to... but this is just the beginning and the puzzles will be put together in the following movie and maybe a sixth... so then you will look back like, okay u know what, i get it... Lets Hope Like Part 2 & 3... They Just Keep Getting Better !!!  

Uhohitsaj on May 20, 2011


this is a good movie i don't think it is a  best performance by johny.......our sparrow ..........oh! its CAPTAIN JACK

THE X on May 20, 2011


 I knew it from the very beginning. Another one felt forced, hence: completely unnecessary.

Cruzer on May 20, 2011


How is Pirates 4 a cash grab? It's not like it came out of nowhere. Did you see the end of the third one? They totally set up the Fountain of Youth thing. They even bought the rights to the book this movie is based upon in 2007. So if Pirates 4 is a cash grab I guess every sequel is.

M.K. Nielsen on May 20, 2011


No monkey?  No dog?  Boo....not going.

gardensla on May 20, 2011


Not all movies were meant to be masterpieces.......can't we just have fun watching a goofy movie?

Jules on May 21, 2011


 This is my problem with wannabe "film critiques" especially this one. Honestly you are telling me that you'd rather watch black swan over this one. I can not say I would ever prefer the latter over pirates. Quit trying to fit the mold of today's so called standard of generic movie critique and make reviews that agree with the public, and most of the reviewers. Now I will say this was not my favorite pirate movie but it was a lot of fun. more fun and enjoyable than watching black swan or any other movie that gets critically acclaimed yet not equally esteemed by other viewers. 3/10 was a terrible score you might consider a different career because you are loosing a lot of your readers by your overly critical, and ridiculous rating scales and reviews

mark on May 21, 2011


so true, I thought it was fun

Archangel11090 on May 21, 2011


 I liked the Mermaid scene...the rest was just bland.

Xerxexx on May 21, 2011


 I would like to see more of them in the future of this series they were great . Maybe use them with a alantis, or posiden storyline would be awesome . 

mark on May 21, 2011


That would be pretty awesome. I'm now afraid of Mermaids.

Xerxexx on May 21, 2011


 I know those things were scary, I was also half expecting Ariel to show during the movie lol

Mark on May 21, 2011


Me too! I was thinking "Aren't Mermaids supposed to be nice?" I loved it though. The mermaids ripping the "Providence" apart was epic.

Xerxexx on May 21, 2011


 I liked it more than the previous one, which was totally over the top., This one was back in line with the first movie and blessed by a new story and new charracters. There is a limit to the amount of action an action movie needs, and that limit is crossed most of the time in such a way that the characters and storyline get lost. I think this did not happen in this movie, which is a commendable initiative.

Peter on May 21, 2011


 I enjoyed the movie, and so did everyone in the theater, everyone was laughing and at the end everyone in the theater clapped and the theater was full.

Juliana Ojeda on May 21, 2011


you are the same guy who gave fast five an 8/10 and Thor a 5/10 rite ? and now POTC on stranger tides get a 3/10 ? i really don't get any of your reviews at all, i just watched On Stranger Tides last night and it definitely didn't deserve a 3/10, i would at least give it a 5or 6/10, it certainly wasn't the best movie in the series but it's a fresh start, of course the action, dialogue camera works could be better ( there's always room to improve, i would agree that there's no such thing as a  PERFECT movie, unless the production team ran out of ideas rite ?) but a 3/10 makes no sense to me. fast 5 got an 8/10, so where does movies like The Dark Knight, Kings Speech stand ? no disrespect for fast 5 , i enjoyed it too but i''d never think that it'll get an 8/10, not on this site tho. but you giving reviews like these sure draws you quite a crowd, my friends who follow this site are all talking about how your reviews make no sense to them either. its the first time in many years that a reviewer like yourself gain more attention than the movie itself. congratulations on that feat.

gusto on May 21, 2011


Fast Five was actually good...this was just painful at times. They ruined Blackbeard! You also got to remember that this is an opinion website...The reviewers are stating their opinions.

Xerxexx on May 21, 2011


 this is a pretty absurd post. Jeremy writes about what HE feels. Since when did one guy's OPINION dictate what everyone else SHOULD think? If you are one of those people that goes to see a film purely on the fact that critics tell you to, i'm sorry but I pity you. You need to make up your own mind. If he gave Fast 5 an 8/10, it's because it was a heap more fun and enjoyable than this steaming oozing pile of crap. I loved POTC 1, but 2-4 are nothing but overly long convoluted films that try so hard to be serious but end up looking silly. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE understand that it is OK for people to not agree with you. Jeremy writes excellent reviews (verbiage and flow) and I think he understands that he will get people up and arms if he rates something low, but that isn't some sort of attention grabbing device. He just wants to be honest about how he feels. These reviews make perfect sense. I am baffled as to how you can say that

Twixie on May 21, 2011



Jeremy Kirk on May 21, 2011


 To start off Jeremy I apologize for being to harsh, and critical with my words in regards to you as a film critic that was wrong. we are all entitled to our opinions even though I disagree with a lot of your reviews (I agree with some too 🙂 ). I Just still can't understand your reasoning for the 3/10 rating I did not think the movie was "F" Material maybe a "c" but not a "f", and I understand your point of not comparing other genre's because there is different purposes for each of them, however You can honestly tell me you would rather watch The King's Speech over this one? And yet you gave that one a 8/10 (I liked that one as well but I'd rather watch pirates 4 any day). It just felt like you you walked in the theater with a bias and you were determined for it to not meet your expectations in which it would mostly not. The same probably happened when tron legacy didn't meet your high hopes of what kind of movie you were expecting. It's just a bummer to see that my fav. movie site (The same site in which I attended almost all the mid-night premieres back when First Showing was based in CO Springs, and when I was in High School.)  like this one begins to become a overly critical over the movies fans love, or at least enjoyed. Now the movie was meh to me just like Alex said however I did not think it was "f" material either. It had some charm like the first one did, and it still has me looking forward to future Pirates movie. Again sorry if I offended you on the earlier comment I felt bad for that afterwards I was just frustrated. 

Mark on May 23, 2011


Does he get the black pearl back or not?? 😉

Timmy on May 21, 2011


The Black pearl is in a bottle, that the joke with the Monkey Everytime JS looks into the bottle. The Monkey face scares JS to death.. also that how the film ends... Which will be the next film, how JS gets the black pearl out of the bottle.. Barbosa is in Blackbeards ship on the way to Tortuga. 

Excel on May 21, 2011


I hate movie critics, they hate everything, even themselves I think. I just watched the movie a couple of hours ago, and I was able to follow the plot, I thought the banter was good, I laughed, I enjoyed the action, and... It was fun!!! I mean, what are you expecting from a swashbuckler!?! I guess if I was like you, and I needed something to complain about, I'd say, I wished they made Blackbeard a tad more threatening, more evil. Kinda like Davey Jones, he was more threatening. But over all I went there not wanting to think too much, I wanted pirate action, and wanted to laugh. I got all three!! I score this movie 9/10. If Blackbeard would have been more maniacal it would have been a 10/10. Again, I hate movie critics.

Blandry888 on May 22, 2011


I posted my comment before reading other comments, I don't normally do that... Anyway, I CAN NOT BELIEVE THE AMOUNT OF NEGATIVITY OF SOME OF THESE COMMENTS! Honestly, what are you people looking for?!? Something on the calibre of Lord Of The Rings? This is Pirate action, Not epic end of the world scenario with a dark lord and a couple of hobbits. Btw, I love LOTR, so please don't come back on me. Lol. Let's stop hating, I mean the movie made 127 million in 3 days, that's pretty impressive!!

Blandry888 on May 22, 2011


I wasn't real crazy about this last one.  I know it is just supposed to be entertaining but as one poster said, it does not live up to traditional POTC standards, in either plot, characters, action, or special effects.  You could really tell they cut way back on quality.  I loved  1 and 2, I thought 3 was just ok but was satisfied with it (other than that ridiculous Davy Jones Locker setup with multiple Jack Sparrows.  WTF).  But this one just wasn't as clever or entertaining, and I didn't give a damn about any of the new characters.  Like the reviewer said, it was boring.  I hope they don't bring Cruz back, she just can't cut it.  I used to really like Barbossa, but now, a peg leg and working for the king?  Come on.  Was that really necessary?  I had extremely low expectations going in after what I'd heard about it.  It wasn't terrible IMO, there were some cute lines here and there, I don't regret spending $10 to see it.  But, I will not buy it when it comes out on DVD like I did the last three.  Did anyone else think it would've been nice to see Johnny fall out of the coconut tree and get a concussion, as a little tribute to Keith?

Jlittler73 on May 31, 2011


I agree with you pal, in your comment. with out Depp, Rush. This film wouldn't have been anything. It was boring in places, the whole of the film seemed rushed, no thought put into the storyline. Has for Cruz i thought she was terrible , who cared about other new characters. I would have like to see the same crew the JS had in the first three Movies. where was the Dog, seeing more of the Monkey.

Excel on Jun 1, 2011


Maybe since they focused on Captain Sparrow and Barbossa this time, the other characters inadvertently suffered for it because they didn't get enough time to grow on us.  Everyone thought it was a good idea at the time, including me, but in hindsight, I think having a little less Jack would have been know, leaving us wanting more.

Jlittler73 on Jun 2, 2011


Tha movie was great. The scenes that led u on between jack and Angelica. The funny twisted words of jack. Barbossa having rum in his leg. The Spanish saying " someone make mark of that man's bravery" Facter shooting him. The fact that all Angelica wanted was amfather but him didn't love her. Like when he said " drink the water for your father" and " you knew which pistols were loaded right father?" funny in a laugh out loud sort of way. And he way he mermaids had fangs and ate sailors really changed everyones mind about ariel he little mermaid. But most of all the way the so cleverly planned all of jacks escapes from the Spanish and port royal was histerical! I can't believe u would say such horrible things about the beloved John Christopher Depp ii A.K.A. Johnny Depp

Svheise on Jun 4, 2011


I think this critic is a complete and udder DOOSH BAG!!!!!! when was it a crime to go to the movies and be entertained? according the doosh bag nobody can ever do it as good as his ass! well mr. doosh bag! if your so fuckin smart then go make a movie I'd buy any amount of money to see it !!!! oh thats right you cant all you can do is sit a t your conputer and talk shit about everbody else's movies!!!!!!! well guess what ? I like the movie ....I thought it was realy good !!!! and I hope they do 50 more of these movies!!!! I hope you choke on these pirates movies !!!!!! you smart ass incompitant !!!!!!

Likalot1971 on Jul 21, 2011


The fourth movie was actually my favorite out of all of them. I lived every single part and I wasn't bored for any part of the movie. I give it 5/5. 🙂

Coolchicaria on Jul 27, 2011


Sorry I meant I loved every single part of it.

Coolchicaria on Jul 27, 2011

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