Johnny Depp is back in the headscarf and eyeliner as Captain Jack Sparrow, whose search for the Fountain of Youth has foundered for no specific reason. Finding himself in London for no specific reason, he soon falls in with ex-lover Angelica (Penélope Cruz), who is masquerading as Sparrow for no specific reason. Together they set off for the fountain, pursued by Geoffrey Rush’s peg-legged Barbossa, who has joined the British navy for no specific reason.
‘On Stranger Tides’ is a film which seems so loaded with contempt for its audience that it expects us not to notice or care that the characters have no clear motivation, that entire scenes have no reason for existing and that for much of the film we don’t even know what continent we’re on. It’s a film where our heroes can escape a trap by simply pulling a lever and dropping through the floor, where a character can dive into a hole in the ground and pop up in an entirely different part of the story. A film, in other words, without tension, momentum or resonance.
For some, this may be a step up from the wilful psychedelic idiocy of ‘At World’s End’, the previous film in the series. But at least that had imagination: ‘On Stranger Tides’ is simply lifeless, a reductive, insulting moneymaking exercise with as much charm and depth as a slot machine.