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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Year: 2011
Production Co: Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Rob Marshall
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Writer: Terry Rossio/Ted Elliott
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths, Gemma Ward

I seem to have enjoyed this film more than most critics I've read, and I thought the reason for that would have been because it broke with nearly everything from the second and third films that everybody (including me) disliked – Rotten Tomatoes shows a steady decline from a peak of 78 percent.

The reason? I believe it's because the character of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) was such a fresh surprise first time around. Without him it would have been another bland CGI adventure with pretty faces – neither Orlando Bloom nor Keira Knightley were above-the-title material.

And without Sparrow this film would have been just the same – bland eye candy with lots of thrills and spills and a distinctive three-act structure fed decisively through the appropriate marketing filters.

But I think it's better than the last two films because I became so confused about the subplots and minor characters I barely followed either of them. This time the series breaks with almost all of it, leaving only Sparrow and the aesthetic flavour of swashbuckling adventure to carry things.

Do they? Of course, but if you're disappointed you must have been expecting a lot more than it could ever deliver. The plot's no less disposable than any midyear Hollywood blockbuster, but at least I could follow it this time.

Captain Jack learns of an imposter trying to organise a ship to reach the famed Fountain of Youth, and he learns it's old flame Angelica (Cruz, slumming it). He's press-ganged onto a ship run by the fearsome Black Beard (McShane), whom he learns is chasing the fountain to stop the prophecy of his death.

At the same time, Barbossa (Rush) returns in the service of the King (Griffiths), who wants to reach the Fountain before the Spanish do. But Barbossa has an ulterior motive of catching up with Black Beard, who attacked and sunk the Black Pearl.

It's all you need to know. There are a few laughs and a few swordfights, but even Depp's looking bored. Maybe that's what everyone's picked up on and that's why he's since gone on record saying he isn't really interested in doing another one.

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