A goodly portion of those reading this blog have seen the Lord of the Rings movies, and most of you enjoyed them. Except that it really should be “movie”, singular. However they might be packaged, there was only one story. The first two parts didn’t end, they just … stopped.

Taken as individual movies, most people will say that their favorite is “Return of the King”. It’s hard to argue with a good, solid, happy ending. Don’t believe me? Go look on the IMDB Top 250 – part 3 is right there at number 12 (part 1 is at number 18 and part 2 is down at number 30).

Some of you are asking what this has to do with the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Even though this is the fourth “movie” in the franchise, counting individual theatrical releases, it is really more appropriate to call it the first part of a second movie. “At World’s End”, like “Return of the King” is the third and final part of a three part story. All of the loose ends were tied up, the good guys live happily ever after, and so on.

So now we’re watching “On Stranger Tides,” the so-called fourth movie and comparing it to “At World’s End” and it’s coming up lacking for many people. Duh! “On Stranger Tides” cannot possibly be compared to “At World’s End” because it is the beginning of a whole new story arc – it can only be compared with “Curse of the Black Pearl,” the beginning of the first story arc.

I found that it compared reasonably well. There will be some disappointed that Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom did not come back. Perhaps because they’re busy living happily ever after? If the producers had brought them back, the series would have jumped the shark. No, Penelope Cruz isn’t anything like Knightly – and that’s a very good thing.

Instead of a remake of the first series, we get something fresh and brand new. Sure, it’s the same old Jack, but Johnny Depp isn’t so much portraying a character in the story as he is being the heart and soul of the franchise. Jack’s never bad, but then neither is he ever entirely good either. Disreputable rascals have long been a staple of good stories and there are arguably none better than Depp’s Jack Sparrow.

Jack has a penchant for manic action – to the point where it is very nearly the signature property of the franchise’s films. Compared with the other three, the level of manic action is comparable to “Curse of the Black Pearl” – a fair amount of the running time is taken up by the introduction of new characters and other exposition.

In this movie, we get a better look at Jack’s romantic side, and the trail of angry women that he leaves behind. It’s hard to talk about the role played by Penelope Cruz without giving away carefully orchestrated plot surprises, so let’s just say that she’s a pirate, she doesn’t take crap from anybody, and Jack is at least partly responsible.

In the end, I found this new movie to be highly entertaining. It might not be a great film, but it is certainly a good one. When the story arc is complete, I think that many of the doubters will find themselves happy with the result.

One more thing – like it’s predecessor, there is a scene that appears after the completion of the credits. It’s not long, but you’ll definitely want to watch – it sets up an interesting plot element for the fifth movie.

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