REMEMBER way back in 2003 when Johnny Depp first swashbuckled onto our screen as a cross between a gay pirate and Keith Richards? Remember when that was funny?
Eight years on and the Hollywood machine, as with so many franchises, is flogging this once successful series to a bloody pulp: for this is the fourth instalment and it’s one that at best, is tired.
After paying through the nose to convince Depp to reprise Captain Jack Sparrow, there’s a sense of desperation to justify the big bucks by making a splash with the rest of the movie.
But On Stranger Tides splashes so much, it drowns in it.
Action sequence after action sequence – always more dramatic than the last – become a tiring routine of en garde posturing.
The film reeks of desperation, with each scene hoping to inject rejuvenating juices into a shrivelled up idea.
It’s quite ironic that the film is about chasing the fountain of youth because here, it’s certainly chasing the ghost of its younger, fresher days.
Depp is his usual mincing self, but we are long since minus babyface Orlando Bloom and permanent pouter, Keira Knightley.
Aboard clambers Penélope Cruz, a duplicitous old flame of Jack’s, and being Cruz, she’s Spanish and feisty, but that’s about it.
The powers of orange-skinned villain – Ian McShane’s Blackbeard – are debateable, and more easily attributed to going through crates of fake tan at a rate of knots than anything else.
Throw in Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa (now with a peg leg) and you’ve got something resembling a piratical Wacky Races: everyone’s racing to get to the fountain of youth, fighting across perilous terrain and stitching each other up.
Problem is, everyone is so scheming and self-centred and double-crossing it’s not always clear who to root for, or who’s in cahoots with whom. But then pirates aren’t exactly known for their loyalty are they.
As previous franchise-resuscitation attempts have shown (Die Hard, Rambo, Shrek, etc), it’s risky to come back with a part four of anything to great success.
The temptation to do something fresh often means the film loses whatever it was that made it successful in the first place.
On Stranger Tides tries to do both, but ends up just trying too hard.