The fourth film of the movie franchise spun out from one of Disneyland's most famous rides, The Pirates of the Caribbean, brings a new direction for the series focal character Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) with a new supporting cast and a new villain in Blackbeard (Ian McShane).
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" also boasts a new director as Gore Verbinski departed for less Pirate-related ventures and in stepped Rob Marshall ("Chicago") to tell the story of Captain Jack's journey to the fabled Fountain of Youth.
Along his journey, Jack found himself in London - the first time seen in the series - where he impersonated a magistrate in order to preside over his own trial. There he finds Gibbs (Kevin McNally) who was being held under the impression he was Jack Sparrow, but was saved from the hangman's noose thanks to the real Jack's interference. But that was not the only reunion waiting for Jack in England, as his audience with King George II (Richard Griffiths) brought to his attention Barbossa's (Geoffrey Rush) new role as a privateer in service to the British Navy and Jack's subsequent escape from said meeting led him to identify the impostor pretending to be him as Angelica (Penélope Cruz), a former lover he met in a Spanish convent.
His run-in with Angelica puts Jack on the Queen's Revenge as a forced member of Blackbeard's crew, who is the newly found father of Angelica and wielder of supernatural powers. Throw in a school of deadly siren-like mermaids and an also interested in the fountain Spanish fleet and a land showdown comparable to the sea battle from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" occurs at the site of the Fountain of Youth.
Eight years after his first portrayal of Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp continues to thrive in the role and find new ways to take the character in. Gone were the zany, over the top shenanigans that plagued the previous film and back was more of the fun, subtle Jack that wowed so many viewers with the original film. Geoffrey Rush follows suit by fleshing out more of the Barbossa character, bringing the villain of the first film, to the conniving pirate in the third to now a man full on in survivor mode, doing what needs to be done to keep going with the revengeful lust still strong inside.
Newcomers Ian McShane and Penélope Cruz brought much improved versions of roles filled by other characters earlier in the series. McShane's Blackbeard was more menacing and imposing than the cursed Barbossa from the first film and Cruz's Angelica had a fiery passion as a female pirate and opposite to Jack that the fair-haired Elizabeth never had.
Fans of the series should not fear the changes this film represents and instead embrace the new direction because in the end "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is another fun, action-packed adventure with everyone's favorite pirate leading the way. Disney should be proud of this next installment, it is a good time for all-ages and a perfect new beginning should they decide to make a second Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.