May 21, 2011

We Review: Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Erica: So this morning, we trekked to the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square to check out Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. We caught the 9:30 a.m. screening. We like these early screenings because they guarantee us a few things: A near-empty auditorium (read: fewer assholes), a lower price (we paid $11 each to see this in 3D on the ETX screen), cleaner restrooms, and perhaps most importantly, we avoided that shitty "I just wasted half my day seeing a shitty movie" feeling.

Not many people are big on the Empire, but we like this theater. While the screens vary in quality, I don't think there's a single uncomfortable seat in the building. Plus, we really like AMC's AM Cinema. In New York City, we don't really have matinee pricing - I think AMC is pretty much the only place where you can see a movie for less by going early. Especially with the excessive 3D, IMAX, and - for us today - ETX pricing (more on that some other day), it's one reason why we're pretty loyal to AMC. Although you won't catch us dead here on a Friday or Saturday night.

Mike: So this is the first Pirates of the Caribbean film you've seen. Were you able to follow along?

Sure. I did see some of the first one and while there were a few things I didn't 'get' or understand, I was able to figure it out for the most part. I can understand the appeal of these movies to the general public. It has an engaging character, a great look, a memorable theme... It's an adventure, just like the ride.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It got some really nasty reviews and I didn't think that was deserved at all - especially comparing it to the 2nd and 3rd entries in the series. In fact, I thought this was better than At World's End, which I found to be a confusing, bloated mess. With On Stranger Tides, it's clear that they took a step back. It resolved a few of the problems from Dead Man's Chest and At World's End: most notably, the running time, and this time there aren't as many unnecessary characters and sideplots. It's a more straightforward, tighter film like the first one. But did it help? A little bit.

And while I just said that, I must admit that I wasn't all that excited about it going into it. The title didn't sound very exciting (On Stranger Tides?), and there seemed to be little 'new' about it. They brought in Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane as Blackbeard, but seeing the trailers I couldn't help but think 'That's it?' It just seemed like more of the same. And that's sort of what we ended up with. I guess I shouldn't complain, though - at least Jack Sparrow isn't going into outer space or traveling to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine or something crazy like that. There's a few new characters and they expanded the mythology a bit (zombies, mermaids), but that's it.

Some of the complaints about On Stranger Tides are that having Jack Sparrow as the main protagonist didn't really work. I didn't mind Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley too much in the first film, but in parts 2 and 3 I got tired of them. But they served a purpose and provided a balance. In On Stranger Tides, it's Depp front and center for the entire film. It didn't bother me at all and didn't feel any nostalgia for Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. At the same time, I liked Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa character, but two films was enough for him (he really shouldn't have been in the 3rd one). And while I think Ian McShane is a terrific actor, his Blackbeard was nothing to write home about. That's such a legendary character - I guess I just expected something more exciting. Don't get me started about Cruz - I've been able to stand her in only a few of the films I've seen her in. She didn't get on my nerves too much in Pirates, but let's just say that she's not one of my favorites.

What did you think of the 3D?

Not necessary. It looked good, but it didn't add much. It's not worth the surcharge. Plus, it's a pretty dark film, so the 3D glasses made it extra dark.

It was shot in 3D and it looks pretty good, but with so many theaters limiting the brightness, I agree, it's not worh it. There were a handful of those cringe-worthy gimmick shots, though - a few with swords and once with a snake. Doctor Tongue would be proud.

Erica: See it, if you're already a fan, but skip the 3D.

Mike: I recommend it, mildly. It's harmless Summer fun, and worth matinee admission.

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