The super successful Disney Franchise Pirates of the Caribbean’s new episode On Stanger Tides, which released in India within days of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, carries some of its stock characters who reboot themselves gladly for the fourth adventure, this time for the Fountain of Youth. But this time the film is helmed by Rob Marshall (Gore Verbinsk directed the first three), the director of enervating musicals such as Chicago and Nine. The movie hence carries the signature of the choreographer-turned-director’s charming and unorthodox steps in the chase and fight sequences, some of them holding the audience in rapt attention. But on the whole, those who have been bred well on the Sparrow diet, the plot is a little bit of a dampener. 

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, as the sometimes heroic, sometimes joker captain, who looks for every opportunity to lead a crew to an unknown adventure full of the trials of highs seas, is predictably funny, quick-witted and tongue-in-cheek, though by now it’s clear that an actor of his calibre sleepwalks through the role. Ditto for Jeffrey Rush’s one-legged Barbossa. The plot goes a bit off this way and that way before it settles down for the finale with some quick action from seductive mermaids and foot-thumping zombies, the latter being the living dead who man Blackbeard’s ship Queen Anne’s Revenge. Ian Mc Shane as Blackbeard is at times genuinely fit for loathing, though that part on behalf of the audience is more than served by Philip the missionary, though Blackbeard often outwits him in the in his quest to become a man without moral qualms. The films’ most attractive new import is, of course, the luminous Penelope Cruz, who is half the hero and half in love with Sparrow. Her other half she reserves for the love of her quest and her could-be-but-never-quite-sure father, the legendary Pirate Blackbeard. The absence of Swann and Turner (Kiera Knightly and Orlando Bloom) remains unexplained. 

There is, of course, the complete disregard for royal orders and dictums on part of both Sparrow and Barbossa, which gives the much needed satiric edge to the plot in an all-encompassing climate of disregard and irreverence for anything that even smells of loyalty. 

The plot also involves a Spanish contingent in three ships, who at worst look straight into the sea and at best, spoil what could have been a kick-ass finale. Either way, they are part of the anti-climax machinery which Marshall clearly revels in unleashing to fill the plot with. And he is aptly served in this by Sparrow’s monastic detachment from the proceedings and his boy-next-door, comically cowardly tricks that is both hideous and charming at the same time. 

Let the jury be out on who arrives at the elusive fountain and who gets the prize, but one thing you can come sure on watching this: Pirates are in no need of certificates, either in life or against death!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides | Rating: Good

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Johny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian Mc Shane, Jeffrey Rush