There is a race to be the first to find the mythical ‘Fountain of Youth’. Eccentric pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, who claims to have been there before, finds himself an unwilling part of the crew of Blackbeard, the pirate that all other pirates fear. To make matters worse he learns that a woman whose heart he apparently broke is actually Blackbeard’s daughter, and he doesn’t know which one he should fear more. All the while his old treacherous first mate Barbossa is hot on his trail and Jack must use the full extent of his charm to stop everyone from trying to kill him.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) – Director: Rob Marshall

Is Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 137 mins

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane

Genre: Action / Adventure

REVIEW

As the 4th instalment in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, it is perhaps no surprise that ‘On Stranger Tides’ does not bring anything particularly new to the party. However, what it does do is reinvigorate the sense of fun that was sorely missing from the overblown and overbearing two movies that preceded it but was key to what made the first movie (‘The Curse Of The Black Pearl’ – which we review here ) so successful. Gone is the tortured William and Elizabeth plot line; replacing it is a fresh and zesty coupling in man-ever-on-the-edge-of-catastrophe, Captain Jack Sparrow (played brilliantly as ever by Johnny Depp) and double-triple-and-quadruple-crossing femme fatale, Angelica (a thoroughly engaging performance by Penélope Cruz). Add to that Geoffrey Rush loving every second of playing peg-legged Captain Barbossa and the always reliable Ian McShane providing considerable gravitas as the evil Blackbeard, what you get is a strong and sturdy movie that provides thoroughly good entertainment.

Plot wise, things get a bit twisted here and there. There are far too many questionable leaps of logic and rather convenient occurrences. Why does Blackbeard know how to make voodoo dolls? Why does he have a zombie crew? Why exactly should the mermaid’s tear have to be fresh? The list goes on, but in an action adventure such as this, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ isn’t quite as important as the ‘avast!’. Once again, the movie is a 12 for good reason. It has enough scary scenes, violence, and innuendo peppered dialogue to set sail and break away from a younger audience. But for those children who enjoyed the snappy and fun surprise hit that was ‘The Curse Of The Black Pearl’, then ‘On Stranger Tides’ should be as equally engaging. ‘On Stranger Tides’ certainly rejuvenates a franchise that had become dangerously bloated and adrift in a sea of seriousness and for that, if nothing else, we doff our wide-brimmed hats to it.

IS ‘PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

In an opening scene we see something get tangled in a fishing net. As the sailors empty the net a body thumps out loudly onto the deck with a blank expression and open mouth. It is also missing some fingers. As the sailors touch him gingerly he lurches up and makes them jump.

Once the setting moves to Blackbeard’s ship we learn that all the officers have been ‘zombified’ to make them more compliant. ‘On Stranger Tides’ has rather an unusual attitude to what zombification constitutes as these officers still talk and seem intelligent enough, but close-ups on their faces show rotten skin half peeling off. However, this generally isn’t too graphic and the detail is often lost. The ‘zombified’ officers generally just behave as large thugs who enforce Blackbeard’s discipline. One such officer gets a sword shoved right through him but he feels no pain and there is no blood.

Blackbeard possesses a magical sword that allows him to control his ship magically. At one point he commands the ropes to entangle around his crew. As he does this he shouts, “Mutineers hang!” and many people are lifted up violently. Although this is mostly around midriffs and limbs, not necks, the men are obviously scared. This sequence lasts around a minute but is followed by a moment whereby one of the crew is put into a rowboat and instructed to flee. As he tries to get away Blackbeard commands that his ship shoots streams of fire which then engulf the small boat. Just before the flames hit the man throws his hands up to protect his face and screams. When the flames do hit, the camera cuts to a wide shot and we see nothing but a wall of flame – there is no indication of the man anymore. The camera cuts to reaction shots of the crew who look upset and concerned. This sequence is a little protracted and lasts a few minutes.

Later in the film we are introduced to mermaids. Much like folklore, these are naked women with fish tails. Obviously the camera employs various techniques to ensure that their chests remain covered, be it from hair, camera angle or things blocking the view. Therefore this generally isn’t graphic or gratuitous and no-one makes any reference to it. The mermaids are initially very threatening. The crew talk amongst themselves about how mermaids pull sailors to the bottom of the ocean and when their nature is revealed, their previously beautiful faces warp a little to show sharp teeth and scary eyes. One shot shows a member of the crew being held tightly and forced under water until he is out of shot with the obvious implication is that he will drown.

Violence in the movie includes a shot whereby a character is seen to get their throat slit. This is done from behind and also done very quickly so there is no lingering on the moment, but it happens without warning and the accompanying slashing sound effect is clearly heard. Later a character has their belly slashed with a sword and we see some blood soak through their shirt. Also one character has a magical whirlwind engulf them which strips the flesh off of their body. We don’t see this in detail but the air around the character goes red during this process and then leaves a skeleton which reaches an arm out of the whirlwind before collapsing, dead.

Throughout the movie there are a lot of references to hanging in the dialogue. Master Gibbs, a character from the previous movies who is clearly very friendly with Jack Sparrow, is given a noose to tie and told that he will hang unless he co-operates. He is told he’ll be “hanging dead with a mouth full of flies”. Early on Jack is told he will hang unless he provides information, and as mentioned above, Blackbeard says he will hang any mutineers. There is also quite a bit of innuendo and suggestive talk between Jack and Angelica. They clearly have a past when they meet up near the beginning of the movie; she says she was “innocent in the ways of men” before meeting Jack, who replies the she “demonstrated a lot of technique for someone (I) supposedly corrupted.” She goes on to say that she was at a convent, which Jack says he “mistook for a brothel”. There is also later reference to “incessant writhing” and when Jack surprised Angelica by stopping her with his sword she says “How is it we can never meet without you pointing something at me?” to which he knowingly grins.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

All the ‘Pirates’ movies sit close to a dark tone and are clearly intended for older children. However where ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ and ‘At World’s End’ went wrong was having the dark parts too dark and the comedy parts too silly. ‘On Stranger Tides’ cuts free the driftwood and strikes the right balance between action, wit and fun and is all the richer a film for it. Due to the level of violence, some scary moments and suggestions of intimacy (albeit mostly implied with varying degrees of subtly) we would suggest this movie should be appropriate for children aged 10 and over.

  • Violence:  3/5 (whilst there is quite a bit of violence, most of this is part of the ‘action / adventure’ feel of the movie and there is little that is genuinely threatening)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5
  • Fear Factor: 3/5
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (the mermaids are, by nature, topless but this is only ever seen unhindered from the back. There is a dance sequence between Jack and Angelica that is a little suggestive)
  • Bad Language: 2/5 (occasional mild bad language and one usage of a moderate curse word near the end of the movie)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (many references to hanging and innuendo)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of redemption, protecting those you care about, managing a bad situation and how to manipulate events to their just conclusion

Words by Mike Record


Pirates of the Caribbean [DVD]


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