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I support the missionary's position.


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
(2011)

The absence of Gore Verbinski's visual flourish is particularly evident in the first third of the Pirates 4 where, despite all efforts by the script and editor to keep things moving, the action just kind of hangs there, going through the motions of what is expected but never really becoming involving.

Rob Marshall was the baffling choice of director (previous efforts include Chicago and Nine; perhaps his choreography background was considered to be an asset, except there was scant evidence that he knew how to choreograph actual frames of action in those films) and the best I can say is that the film doesn't completely sink under him. Darius Wolski may be partly to thank for this, as he returns as cinematographer. The imagery is as sumptuous as ever, it just doesn't cohere like it did before.

Contrarily, the script itself is far less bloated than World's End and it wins points on that count. The nominal replacements for Bloom and Knightley never fully take centre stage, so there's more of a surfeit of ham than wood on display. There's been criticism that Jack doesn't work as the protagonist, and it's certainly true that Depp's shtick is laboured in the early stages of the film. Once they've set sail, and particularly when they become involved in island "business", he's much more Captain Jack-like, and the handling of his having "real" feelings for Penelope Cruz's Angelica is amusing. Rush appears to be having as much fun as ever, while McShane is somehow less impressive than he should be.

Some decent ideas crop up along the way (I was particularly taken with the actual ships in bottles) and the mermaid attack sequence and the (obvious) finale actually generate some excitement, but the series really needs a visual stylist if it's going for further installments (which no doubt it will - there's already a wish list of mostly journeyman names knocking about, but I'd like to see Terry Gilliam take a pay cheque that would also give him some clout for his own projects.)

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