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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Movie Review

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film in Jerry Bruckheimer’s blockbuster franchise starring Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, is leagues better than the second and third installments, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. With a renewed plot and fantastic new characters, On Stranger Tides carries moviegoers across the high seas on an adventure not truly experienced since the release of the first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl.

For the good it has going for it, Pirates 4 does test the waters with questionable content. Similar to previous storylines, the pirates encounter supernatural elements and sexual innuendo is present in the dialogue – though it is intermittent. For these reasons, and others explained in detail below, On Stranger Tides gets a lower rating.

The Movie in a Minute

While on the hunt to reclaim his ship, The Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow is unwillingly roped into finding the fabled Fountain of Youth by a mysterious woman from his past named Angelica. Brought onboard Queen Anne’s Revenge, Capt. Jack is faced with the fiercest of pirates, Blackbeard. The two legendary pirates and the ship's crew face ferocious mermaids, as they race against a British ship steered by Jack’s old foe, Barbossa, and a Spanish fleet to find the mythical fountain.

The Good and Bad in On Stranger Tides

Perhaps it’s the change in director, from Gore Verbinski, who helmed the first three Pirates movies, to Oscar nominated director Rob Marshall (Chicago), that invigorated the franchise, making this fourth installment outshine its sequel predecessors. Maybe it's because the movie doesn't include Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom (The actors themselves aren’t necessarily to blame for the second and third films' decline in likability; it was where their characters were going that was especially unappealing.)

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who co-wrote the first three movies, leaned on Tim Powers’ ‘80s novel of the same for inspiration. On Stranger Tides comes across as a stand alone story and not just another tack-on film. Pirates 4 isn’t bogged down by too many subplots and unlikable characters. That, coupled with a good script, well paced and produced story, and fine movie direction give the film what the franchise needed – a fresh look at Jack’s pirating escapades.

On Stranger Tides offers humorous moments and exciting action reminiscent of the original film. Johnny Depp dons the pirate garb of Capt. Jack Sparrow once again; and he does it brilliantly. He is on-point throughout, as usual. Joining Depp on-screen are Pirates of the Caribbean newcomers actress Penelope Cruz as Angelica and actor Ian McShane as Blackbeard. Geoffrey Rush and Kevin McNally reprise their roles as Capt. Barbossa and Jack’s first-mate Gibbs.

Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer rejoins the team, scoring On Stranger Tides. He composed the music for Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, taking over from composer Klaus Badelt who scored the memorable music for The Curse of the Black Pearl. Zimmer fulfills a long-standing tradition in this franchise with a stellar musical score that enhances the movie experience, aided by the talent of guitarists Rodrigo Y Gabriela.

Something that may surprise moviegoers is that in the midst of the treasure-hunting adventure, Pirates 4 touches on faith. The spiritual conversation begins with the introduction of a missionary named Philip (Sam Claflin) on Blackbeard’s ship. It’s his words with Blackbeard that initiate God into the picture. On Stranger Tides elaborates on the sin of Blackbeard. His wicked nature is especially seen in his ruthless rule over his crew. He makes use of a voodoo doll and shows no mercy to those who cross him. Thankfully, his iniquity is countered by displays of grace and the declaration of eternal hope found in God.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence, some frightening images, sensuality and innuendo, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is unsuitable for children.

In the End

Pirates 4 is a bit long, coming in at 2 hours and 17 minutes, and is unfortunately shown in 3D. That said, the sequel is a funny, entertaining summer flick that alludes to big faith issue: how we as humans desire eternal life, how we can show grace and how sin can rob one’s compassion.

Note: As is custom with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, On Stranger Tides has a short clip after the ending credits. These last few seconds of this film are disappointing and unimaginative.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's