Try to recall, if you will, the atmosphere when Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl burst onto the scene in 2003. Films based on Disney land rides weren’t being released in theaters every other week yet, Gore Verbinski’s biggest claim to fame was The Ring, and the world had yet to be introduced to Captain Jack Sparrow, a delightful side-character in the film from the twisted mind of Johnny Depp.

Today the story is a bit different. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides hits theaters this weekend and it comes after two mind-numbing sequels have driven the series to creative oblivion. This time, Depp’s Jack Sparrow has been thrust into the spotlight as the main character, while Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane also tag along in some kind of quest for the fountain of youth. The film will most likely be a hit financially; audiences will buy tickets in droves whether it’s any good or not. But do you think the new film reinvigorates the franchise? Or does it send it deeper towards Davy Jones’ Locker? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and assume SPOILERS lie after the jump.

Let me start by saying that I don’t think this is a good film by any stretch of the imagination. Yet I also don’t understand the absolute hatred being leveled against it. Over at Slant, Ali Arikan said the film raised some existential questions for him, and that he preferred eating maggots to watching it:

One of the worst films of all time, On Stranger Tides has absolutely and utterly no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I wanted to say it’s like watching an enema, but even that’s a good thing: you get rid of the filth. Instead, here, you are force-fed shit, then made to regurgitate it, and then eat it again. It’s as if you were cloned, and the clones shared the same consciousness, and then were turned into the human centipede, but instead of three, this centipede is endless. It’s not so much pain, though there’s that, too, but, instead, nausea.

Arikan’s not alone. The film currently sits at 35% on Rottentomatoes, with many film critics proclaiming it an abomination. I much prefer my colleague Massawyrm’s take on it:

If you are a diehard PIRATES fan, then you will see Jack Sparrow being Jack Sparrow, a number of your favorite side characters will make an appearance, and all the iconography you expect from the franchise will show up. There are some halfway decent action set pieces and a number of funny gags and one-liners. It is, for all intents and purposes, adequate popcorn fair. But nothing here will raise your pulse or make you hungry for a fifth installment. It simply exists and throws in enough interesting elements to keep your attention while you watch it.

As a Pirates film, On Stranger Tides is totally adequate. Not a tragedy like the previous two films, but not something that will capture your excitement or imagination, as is the potential of this series.

What did you think of it?

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