On painful ‘Tides’

Posted by · 10:55 am · May 14th, 2011

Guy was balancing two options in Cannes this morning: Take in the press screening of Rob Marshall’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” or catch up on some much-needed rest. Given that I had already suffered the experience, I suggested he spare himself the 130-odd minutes of anguish and, I don’t know, lie in a park and eat a baguette or something.

Truly, this film is the embarrassing, excruciating fourth installment of a franchise that bottomed out somewhere in the middle of the second. I wanted it to end the minute it started, and knowing there were over two hours to come, it was a trying, trying experience. The only thing that kept my attention was the placement of Penélope Cruz’s crucifix necklace.

But no one is pretending this is anything beyond a paycheck for talent and a conservative money-grabbing maneuver on the studio’s part. I guess you can’t blame them. Opening weekend will be huge. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to stand in the streets and scream, beg for consumers not to spend their money on a film so badly. Hopefully the final receipts will fall short of the marks reached by the other entries.

The “screenplay” (from the same duo who brought us the rest, though clearly running on fumes now) is a confused melange of supernatural mumbo-jumbo that doesn’t even make sense on its own terms. Yet, unlike Gore Verbinski’s set, it doesn’t have the built-in charm that allows for some level of forgiveness.

The action set-pieces are just hilarious in their mimicry of each other at this point. It seems a desire to re-capture the freshness of that first duel between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner is feverish. But that shark was jumped with the bone spheres of “Dead Man’s Chest,” I’m afraid.

It was painful to watch the great Ian McShane wither away amid this madness. And there was something there — far from the finished product — in tapping Blackbeard for another dose of mystical voodoo. But I’ll be damned if the writers knew how to get at it.

I’m also pretty sure I was supposed to care about Sam Clafin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. I didn’t. It’s an entirely perfunctory sub-plot. But these films have been built on them. We must keep tradition alive, lest we abandon a trademark bloated running time

Dariusz Wolski found more than a handful of inspired images previously, but here I’m guessing the visuals are weighed down by the simple fact that Marshall seems to be in a downward creative spiral. How he got this gig remains a mystery to me, but whatever it yielded for his wallet, he should feel fortunate for it. The goodwill of “Chicago,” however, has all but run its course now (and I speak as someone who frankly thought “Memoirs of a Geisha” wasn’t a disaster). When you’re rolling your eyes at Judi Dench and Richard Griffiths, something isn’t working.

The big winners of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?” Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom.

[Photo: Walt Disney Pictures]

→ 23 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily · Reviews

23 responses so far

  • 1 5-14-2011 at 11:03 am

    Fitz said...

    Not that big of a surprise. Sorry you had to suffer through it regardless, Kris.

    On the plus side ‘Dark Knight Rises’ starts production soon I believe.

  • 2 5-14-2011 at 11:29 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Bridesmaids is good.

  • 3 5-14-2011 at 11:48 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Which reminds me…

  • 4 5-14-2011 at 12:49 pm

    Maxim said...

    “Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to stand in the streets and scream, beg for consumers not to spend their money on a film so badly.”

    I really don’t think this kind of hyperbolic response is helping your cause. Makes it… I dunno… I have no doubt that you didn’t like the film but I am not at all sure you are right.

    “Truly, this film is the embarrassing, excruciating fourth installment of a franchise that bottomed out somewhere in the middle of the second. ”

    There is absolutely nothing in the second film that deserves this kind of venom. Sort of renders the rest of your review completely useless (for me, anyway).

  • 5 5-14-2011 at 12:55 pm

    Troy said...

    Bottomed out somewhere in the first film, I’m afraid.

  • 6 5-14-2011 at 1:20 pm

    Fitz said...

    All I have heard is that the film tanks during the 2nd (never saw it) and the third film had me checking my watch several times in the theatre.

  • 7 5-14-2011 at 1:40 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “I have no doubt that you didn’t like the film but I am not at all sure you are right.”

    Who said anything about being “right?” It would make me depressed for this film to approach the money made by the rest in the franchise because it’s so incomparably lazy, so I’d gladly beg people not to spend money on it (which would thereby encourage more of the same). There is nothing hyperbolic about that.

    And if you don’t think the second film bottomed out when it got all bloated and packed with set-pieces that exhausted rather than captivated, that’s fine by me. (And by the way, that’s not “venom.” I like much of that film, but the seeds of desperation are clearly sowed somewhere in there.

  • 8 5-14-2011 at 8:28 pm

    The Dude said...

    Can’t say I’m surprised at this review. The inclusion of Cruz and McShane gave me some hope, but it looks like there’s really no saving this franchise. What a pity, considering that the first film in the series was actually such good, guilty fun.

  • 9 5-14-2011 at 8:54 pm

    Ben M. said...

    I would still be shocked if the movie isn’t at least better than Nine. I’m probably going to see this, but I’ve never been a big fan of any of the films in the series, and it is sad that it looks like Marshall isn’t living up to his early promise (though I agree with Kris that Memoirs wasn’t a disaster).

    Still, while I know some people don’t like this movie, it seems as if the summer’s big budget action blockbusters that have screened so far are doing fairly well. Pirates currently has a 70 on metacritic (while I expect the number to come down it seems doubtful that it will be fully panned), Fast Five got surprisingly good reviews and is actually really fun, Thor got decent reviews and basically got the job done IMO, and Dark of the Moon got a very positive first review from AICN after the buzz has been that the film turned out better than anyone was expecting.

  • 10 5-15-2011 at 6:19 am

    JJ1 said...

    And yet, the first 4 reviews counted on Metacritic are quite high on it.

    For me, the first Pirates was incredible. The second was an abomination. And the third wasn’t much better than the second. Just too much of everything thrown at us for 2.5 hours.

  • 11 5-15-2011 at 8:18 am

    Christian Toto said...

    The two “Pirates” sequels left me thoroughly depressed. You could have shuffled the scenes in a Cuisinart and threw them back up on the screen and it would have made just as much sense.

    But … people dig these movies. So it makes perfect sense for Hollywood to keep making them. If you sat through 2 and 3 and still clamor for 4, well, this is what you get. And we can’t blame Hollywood for reacting to our collective movie tastes.

  • 12 5-15-2011 at 8:38 am

    Chris138 said...

    I’ll probably see this anyway, but if I end up agreeing with your review here then that is a big disappointment. I like the first film a lot, thought the second and third were dreadful (especially the latter… mind-numbingly bad). This one, based on the trailer, looked like it held some promise, though. Guess I’ll have to see it and judge for myself.

  • 13 5-15-2011 at 10:23 am

    TJ said...

    Movies like this (or Transformers, or any of those big, loud summer blockbusters without brains) are much better enjoyed under the influence of a certain illegal substance. I recommend trying it out.

  • 14 5-15-2011 at 10:27 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    I did enjoy the first but never had the desire to watch any sequels.

  • 15 5-15-2011 at 12:06 pm

    RichardA said...

    Memoirs of a Geisha was not a disaster. It even garnered a few Oscar nominations and wins–tied for most wins that year (i think). It won “pretty” awards.

  • 16 5-15-2011 at 12:07 pm

    RichardA said...

    Rob Marshall needs an intervention, however.

  • 17 5-15-2011 at 3:23 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Rob Marshall is a tricky one. I LOVED Chicago, liked Memoirs, was disappointed with Nine, and have very little interest in Pirates 4. His stock is definitely going down with me.

  • 18 5-15-2011 at 3:25 pm

    SJG said...

    I thought the 2nd movie was bad, but I kept telling myself it had set itself up for a promising conclusion… which failed to materialize in the miserable third installment.

    I thought there might be some hope for redemption of the franchise when they started working on a fourth film… until I saw the name ROB MARSHALL plastered boldly all over all the marketing materials… which convinced me to stay far, far, far away from any theater that might be showing this destined-to-be-a-mess movie.

  • 19 5-15-2011 at 11:17 pm

    Glenn said...

    Yeah, it’s not that good is it? First time I’ve actively hated 3D – made a dark film darker and I took the glasses off for about 40 minutes of the runtime to no detriment.

  • 20 5-16-2011 at 1:03 pm

    James said...

    I just couldn’t care less about this franchise. Shame too. Not many pirates in films nowadays, but I’m so tired of this series.

  • 21 5-16-2011 at 4:14 pm

    Nelson said...

    Jesus, the first one was so great, a 10/10 for me, pitch perfect.

    From there, it’s been hell and worse. I would love to see this film do very poorly.

  • 22 5-16-2011 at 7:38 pm

    Chris said...

    The first one sucked balls. The second and third chocked on those balls.

  • 23 5-19-2011 at 7:29 pm

    Matt T said...

    I didn’t like it. It was better than the second and third installment, but I still didn’t like it.

    The first half of the movie was awful in fifty different ways that I don’t feel like listing.

    The second half (once Ian McShane showed up, really) was almost passable, if for no other reason than that there was a real plot that I could follow. Really once they hit that point, the movie turned into standard popcorn fare, and I can’t fault them too much for that.