Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffery Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Sam Calfin, Kevin McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Gemma Ward

One of the most anticipated summer blockbusters, On Stranger Tides might not live up to everyone’s expectations; but does not fail to disappoint either. Sure you will be irked at certain parts by the stupidity of some characters (mainly Geoffery Rush as Captain Barbossa) but On Stranger Tides will leave you laughing your fishing asses out as the closing credits roll.

The story: starting from where At Worlds End left off, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has abandoned his futile search for the ‘Fountain of Youth’ until he is compelled by King George II to find the mystical fountain before the Spanish beat them to it. Hector Barbossa (Geoffery Rush) is to be his guide on this ever-so-dangerous mission. Unknown to both Jack and Barbossa, the fiercest pirate of the seven seas, Black Beard (Ian McShane) is also in search of the legendary waters to break a prophecy that foretells his death at the hands of a one-legged man (Yes, at this point, I was thinking WTF too! ). That’s not all. Jack Sparrow has to be on the lookout for the beautiful Angelica (Penelope Cruz), with whom he shared a mysterious past.

The story is completely different from the previous movies, with more focus on Captain Sparrow than ever before.  Loosely adapted from ‘On Stranger Tides’ by Tim Powers, this movie seems more pirate-y than the others. With more references to scally-wags and unholy cursOn Stranger Tides reminds you a lot of Robert Louis Stevensons’ Treasure Island and Long John Silver.

The absence of both, Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom is surely felt mainly due to Sparrow’s over-exposure. Although Rush manages to steal some of the thunder away, his half-hearted performance and blonder appearance, makes him an eyesore. Ian McShane is terribly miscast as Blackbeard. He does not look menacing or even pirate enough to be the infamous Blackbeard. With notorious anatagonists such as Davy Jones (Bill Nighy/Dead Man’s Chest) and Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander/At World’s End), Ian McShane as Blackbeard is a definite disappointment.

No one else could have played Angelica better than Penelope Cruz and she is a definite breath of fresh air after all that hot wind by Keira Knightly. Still, it is kind of annoying to watch Cruz depend so heavily on her Spanish accent and her feisty Latina appearance. Another notable addition is the minor character and sub plot of Philip Swift (Sam Claflin), a young stalwart missionary who is employed to save Blackbeard’s damned soul from purgatory (Another WTF moment). Perhaps the most thrilling part of the movie is the mermaids. High fashion runway models – Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Gemma Ward are extra yummy as vampire mermaids (Yes, vampires AGAIN!), Tamara and Syrena.

The cinematography ( Dariusz Wolski) is well done, as in all the Pirates, although one cannot say the same for direction. On Stranger Tides would be the first of the series not directed by Gore Vebinski, instead by Rob Marshall (Memoirs of the Geisha, Chicago, Nine). There is a notable difference in the style and pace of the film because of the change in director. While some may not notice the difference, others (including myself) will get adjust through the course of the film. The action sequences are well choreographed and fast-paced, and would have made more sense if they weren’t 3D. Hans Zimmer’s score is perfection as usual. The costumes, makeup and the sets are top-notch, especially the new addition to the Caribbean fleet: the rustic looking ‘ Queen Anne’s Revenge’ – Blackbeard’s flagship. On Stranger Tides is also perhaps more diverse when it comes to locations than its predecessors. From renaissance Europe to marooned islands, stuffy English courts to Amazonian jungles, the movie manages to tie all these locations together quite effectively.

So what’s the verdict? Aye or Nay? It’s most definitely an Aye! The movie does have its cons but it has managed to get back to basics – the true essence of pirate life in a changing world. Somewhere duringDead Man’s Chest and At Worlds’ End, the story got complex and sidetracked. Watch it for some mean swashbuckling; elaborate sword-fighting, gun- slinging action. If not for anything else – watch the sexy Mr. Depp, rum-soaked and as disillusioned as ever, trying to wade away from all his troubles.