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Directed by Rob Marshall
Featuring Johnny Depp  Penélope Cruz and Ian McShane

Captain Jack Sparrow is back on a search for the Fountain of Youth. Does the franchise need its own youth returned?


The Film

The fan favorite sensation that is Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns for his own movie, setting him on a path of mistaken identity and conscription to find the Fountain of Youth for the dreaded Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Penélope  Cruz plays Angelica, Blackbeard’s first mate and a former love interest to Jack Sparrow.  As the adventure begins Angelica fears for Blackbeard’s life

The film captures the fun and humor of the shrewd (and drunk) Captain Jack as he outwits  the rest of the characters . Depp easily fills his shoes all over again as the character’s antics continue to thrill audiences. The rest of the cast also do an excellent job fulfilling their roles, and it’s great to see Jack, Gibbs and Barbossa again.

The world continues to expand by  playing on the supernatural elements established in the original trilogy. The appearances of mermaids and captured ships are unexpected yet still believable in this world. The audience is left with the sense of wonder and excitement  of living a pirate’s life through the eyes of these characters in this fictional version of the Caribbean.

Despite being the first film in a new trilogy and moving away from the previous Will Turner/Elizabeth Swann love story, this film likes to rehash certain overly familiar and tired elements from the previous films. On Stranger Tides features an innocent budding relationship naive and untainted in the life of piracy (a priest and a mermaid in place of William and Elizabeth in the original trilogy) and a famous and mythic pirate antagonist (Blackbeard in place of Davy Jones).

While the relationship aspect  is simply boring and unemotional, the use of both Blackbeard and the Fountain of Youth so soon probably hurt the film the most by adding too much famous gimmick to the plot (especially after the franchise just used Davy Jones) without bringing the writing along to support it.

On the flip side of this, this fourth film doesn’t feel anywhere near as large or epic in scope as the previous two. While using these historical elements like Blackbeard and the Fountain of Youth, as well as competition between England and Spain, the danger of the series is nowhere near on the same scale as the East India Trading Company wiping out all of piracy on a global level. Eternal youth doesn’t have the same imminent threat as the mystical Davy Jones taking his Kraken and going on a killing spree.

In this film it’s fun to see the actors do their work. The action and the setting are exciting. However, the plot is weak and gimmicky. The film tries to capture the swashbuckling fun and foreboding danger of the originals, but it comes off as a rehash taking what did well in the previous films. Only some of those still work.



The Video and the Audio

The Blu-Ray is definitely a step up from the DVD, with crisper colors and sharpness. Presented in 2.40:1 and DTS-HD 7.1 surround sound, the film both looks and sounds nice. I wish there were more scenic shots to take advantage of.



The Packaging and Bonus Features

The Blu-Ray/DVD combo comes in a standard Blu-Ray case with slip cover. Disney almost doesn’t want you to notice the DVD. The DVD itself is plain gray, as opposed to the graphic-covered Blu-Ray. Plus it’s hidden behind promotional inserts.

However, one of the neat things I noticed in stores is that the Blu-Ray/DVD combo is available both in this standard smaller Blu-Ray case, as well as a standard larger DVD case (with red accenting on the case art instead of blue). I haven’t noticed this for other combo releases. It’s an interesting concept to allow customers to choose which shape they prefer in their media shelves, but it’s probably an unnecessary extra production cost in the long run.

The DVD and the Blu-Ray have almost the same bonuses, like commentary and bloopers. It’s good to see Disney not nerf the DVD and give too much preferential treatment to the Blu-Ray. I’m partial to the Lego version of the story, told in shorts. They could have done away with the intros in each individual short when playing all though, and more original adventures would have been appreciated.

The Blu-Ray features Disney’s Second Screen, which is a sort of visual commentary that you can sync with the Blu-Ray playing so that you can follow the film with production art, behind-the-scenes photos, info blurbs, short videos and more arranged in the timeline of the film. The syncing can be done automatically from the website or mobile app, which happened as I both watched the Blu-Ray and the Second Screen features from my laptop.

This can also be viewed separately simply by visiting disney.com/secondscreen, which means you can view it alongside the DVD as well (without any syncing, so you’re on your own with that) and simply by yourself online.

The Second Screen feature an interesting little bonus, but it makes the watching of the film more interactive and less passive, and that’s not necessarily the viewing experience movie watchers want.



Overall (Not an Average)

The film can be a fun summer film to lose yourself in, but the writing is weak. Resting so much on obvious pirate lore doesn’t save the film. While the extras are there, the most notable Second Screen feature is available online at Disney’s website anyway, so there’s not much of a need to bother with a full purchase. If you need to watch it, renting or streaming will suit you just fine.



The Review
The Film 5/10
The Video and Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10