The fourth installment of the “Pirates” franchise is a mediocre one at best. For a series that started with a bang, one can’t help but wonder if this is the final time we see Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.
The previous two films were head-scratchers to say the least, and Depp admittingly acknowledging that he was never quite sure what the story was about. The fourth film doesn’t alleviate any of those issues either. While the action and swordplay is again top notch for the action genre, there is little heart and even less story considering there is a sword fight/battle every 5 minutes.
Director Rob Marshall is new to the franchise and regrettably, takes the film down a predictable and clichéd path. In the scant moments where you might try to believe that character development is coming, don’t bother; another sword fight will show up. It’s a tired and worn-out method, akin to many brain-dead summer action movies with little story.
Fans of the series undoubtedly love Depp’s character, what with his slapstick humor and spirit. I’m sure they realize that this movie never tries to take itself that seriously, which is a good thing. Better to poke fun at yourself than try to make a serious action movie and fail miserably in the process.
The action scenes are fun, and Depp does a very good job of selling the sequences. As with the previous films, his character is full of bravado and panache. His antics on camera are a delight to watch, and thankfully he does manage to keep this film entertaining, albeit only at a superficial level.
The story is the true downfall of the film however: the race to discover Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth. Geoffrey Rush is back playing Barbossa, this time as a privateer working for the crown. Penélope Cruz is also present as Angelica, though she is now in league with the supernatural power-wielding Blackbeard.
One would think that a race to the fountain of youth might be a grand idea and journey, but the story simply sloshes along, much as if you’re traipsing through the marshes of the Everglades right after it rained. Pointless characters (a minister and a mermaid?), unneeded side stories, and enough plot holes to sink Jack’s ship (why does the bad guy always stop using his main power when he’s about to win?) derail the main story enough to ensure this film’s fate of nothing more than typical summer fodder.
Depp really tries to save this film, but one man cannot save a script and this lackluster material. I can’t imagine he’ll have many kind things to say, in retrospect, about this script either. And for the obligatory post-credit scene, I suppose this won’t be the last time we’ll see this franchise. One has to wonder if Depp will sail off into the sunset and leave this aimless franchise to someone else.