Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Claflin,
Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Kevin McNally, Richard Griffiths, Keith Richards and Dame Judi Dench.
Running Time: 136 mins.
Seen at: Didsbury.
On: Saturday, 28th May, 2011.
In 2003, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was the unexpected runaway success of the summer. Now, two sequels later, Johnny Depp returns as the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow – a role and indeed a character, that is one of the most iconic of its generation.
This time around, there’s a much more patriarchal feel to the proceedings, as the action opens in the courts of Buckingham Palace, where our piratical protagonist is captured and forced to face Richard Griffith’s oily King George, who sets him on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth.
Along the way he reignites a spark with his voluptuous old flame Angelica (a fiery Penelope Cruz), who’s father just happens to be the so-called: ‘pirate all pirates fear’ – Blackbeard.
Considering this tyrannical figure is supposedly such a threat, Ian McShane’s performance is oddly downbeat, with lots of ghoulish facial expression, but not much substance.
Unfortunately, the absence of both Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley as young lovers Elizabeth and Will is far too keenly felt for this to equal the standard of the first three installments.
It’s not the only problem either. The plot is as muddled and convoluted as ever, with too many double-crosses and triple crosses to keep track of. There is an influx of intriguing new talent however, in the shape of Sam Claflin as young servant boy Philip – of course the substitute for the Orlando Bloom mould. Astrid Berges-Frisbey plays a mermaid who’s given little more to do than flop around, and Geoffrey Rush is sadly rather underused.
Thank goodness once again then for Johnny Depp. It’s a joy to see this character again, and Depp infuses Sparrow with his trademark sparkle, wacky facial expressions and sharply anecdotal witticism. ‘I saw everything – I can name fingers and point names’ – is one of many slurred sayings that are slyly observational.
The action set-pieces are also suitably impressive. Early on, Sparrow is seen balancing on top of two horse carriages, one of which is occupied by a quixotic society lady – none other than Judi Dench – in a delightful blink-and-you’d-miss-it cameo. Assuming she is about to be propositioned by the dashingly irreverent Sparrow, Depp simply snatches one of Dench’s earrings as she replies incredulously: ‘Is that it?’.
Where the original film utilized the conceit of pirates turning skeletal in the moonlight, here we have the price that mutineers must pay while under Blackbeard’s servitude, as well as a genuinely spooky mermaid attack, made all the more unsettling by the duel combination of Hans Zimmer’s rousingly shocking score, and of course the novel addition of 3D.
3D was at its very best when suited to the florescent, frenetic frenzy of a huge effects vehicle like TRON. Here, the overall feel – cinematographically at least - is rather dark and dingy occasionally – but thankfully, there are plenty of moments that serve the extra dimension very well – with the tip of a sword swung right up into your face.
To conclude, this is a lively, always entertaining mixture, of laughs, adventure and extravagant effects, with Depp on peak form and a witty screenplay, but here’s hoping that Bloom and Knightley decide to agree to reunite once again when the sails are set for a rumored fifth outing. I wonder just how much leverage is left in a filmic formula where they remain absent – because these wonderful movies – my favourite film franchise of all time – it just isn’t the same without them!