Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Turns Out Mermaids Are Tough

By Bill Caton

Went to see “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” the other night and got a bit confused. Was I watching Johnny Depp (as pirate Jack Sparrow) and Penelope Cruz (as his female counterpart Angelica) or Harrison Ford (as Indiana Jones) and Karen Allen (as Marion)?

That confusion led to larger questions: Do chases on ghost ships and finding silver chalices to utilize the power of the mythical Fountain of Youth add up to digging in the desert for the Arc of the Covenant and taking a leap of faith to find Jesus’ grail? If one pirate captain disintegrates because of his dearth of character is that the same as watching a Nazi dissolve screaming after thinking Jesus cared to drink from a rich man’s cup?

I think so … I guess. And because of that, I also think “Pirates” is a fun movie to watch. A witty hero and heroine, an evil villain and a battered but energetic supporting cast with plenty of motivation makes for a good movie. At least it did in most of the Indiana Jones offerings. And like the Indiana Jones installments, “Pirates” takes the time to laugh at itself. Which is good, because any rational person has to laugh at this preposterous entertainment.

Ann and I certainly laughed a lot. But we also enjoyed watching the actors rush headlong through the story, apparently (and miraculously, I suppose) only mildly bored with this third reprisal of their roles in the franchise.

“Pirates” takes advantage of the time-honored formula that there are supernatural forces in the world – one of which might even be God – and men are tested in the crucible where everything but the content of one’s heart is melted away.  I think the overarching lesson here might be that we are to tend to our business and leave well enough alone when it comes to the power that turns the wheel of creation. After all, Oedipus should never have tempted fate and Arthur and his boys should have let sleeping grails lie.

All that being said, we learned some important things in Pirates, I think, not the least of which is Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) revelation that “mermaids are tough.”

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