This week sees the national UK release of latest and maybe one of the greatest (save for the 3D) Pirates of the Caribbean films,  Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides.

Here at DisneyBrit HQ we were delighted to be invited to the first UK press screening held last Monday at the wonderful Empire Leicester Square.  As Adam was busy building his own water feature and considering swapping his Corsa for the Black Pearl and Juz was, well too far away, I (Craig) took one for the team and headed into “town” to meet up with a long time listener, Hayden Pronto-Hussey to enjoy this Premiere (and yes I did make him buy the popcorn).

So what does Captain Jack have to overcome in his fourth big screen adventure?  Here is the Disney blurb.

“Join Jack Sparrow in his quest for the fabled Fountain of Youth. An incredible adventure which takes him to new horizons and along the way puts him up against Mermaids, Zombies, new adversaries as well as the infamous Blackbeard.

Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides”, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Rob Marshall, captures the fun, adventure and humour that ignited the hit “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise – this time in Disney Digital 3D™. Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed tale of truth, betrayal, youth and demise.

When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz), he’s not sure if it’s love -or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.

The international cast of “Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides” includes “Pirates” veterans Geoffrey Rush, as the vengeful Captain Hector Barbossa, and Kevin R. McNally, as Captain Jack’s long-time comrade Joshamee Gibbs, plus Sam Claflin as a stalwart missionary and Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a mysterious mermaid.

“Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides” is in cinemas May 18th 2011.

Lets first deal with the ever growing popularity of 3D.  As a glasses wearer I find having an additional pair of specs a pain I could do without. I spent more than half of this film with the 3D glasses on my lap and frankly it was better without them.  The specs you see, are tinted and I do not normally wear my RayBans when watching a movie!. As for the 3D effects, well, like many of the other current 3D flicks the effects are to pronounce the foreground, so for instance if Barbossa spun round his pony tail would be in 3D.  There were also some really unnecessary (unless you were 6) sword pointing, Philharmagic style out of screen effects.  But this is a film review, not a technology one!

From the outset when the Disney intro played and Cinderella’s castle was adorned with a Pirate flag I kind of got the feeling this would be a tongue in cheek affair.  The opening scenes were quite brilliant and took you back to old English Court rooms recently revisited in the excellent Gallows Law.  A great street chase scene followed and the first of many rope swinging, sword fighting scenes played out.  Great entertainment, fast paced and full of action.

Disney had apparently reduced the budget on this film, over the previous three, but to be fair it was hard to see where.  Depp was just brilliant in a role he obviously loves and the reported $55.5m he was paid clearly was money well spent as without him there is little point watching the film.  Maybe he spent some of his money on a hair do as the opening scenes showed some lovely blonde highlights to his Sparrow sprawny hair.  The comedic element and classic one liners are back and it’s certainly more of a fun fantasy tale then maybe some of the previous films with the Davey Jones Locker tales and curses a plenty.

This film also introduces two new main characters which I am sure will return in another film.  Penelope Cruz is brilliant as Angelica, she and Depp have a past, that’s played on and he seems to be unsure of her now.  She has more life in her than poor old Kiera and although many body doubles where used during filming as Cruz was quite heavily pregnant, it would be hard to tell it was not her.

Ian McShane however did not convince as the most feared pirate of them all, Blackbeard.  Maybe it was because I was a fan of Lovejoy and kept seeing him in that leather jacket with an antique painting under his arm, but it just missed something; like an obvious wrong casting.  Unfortunately,  he was just not evil or sinister enough.

The story moved at a good pace and took you on this journey or race for the Fountain of Youth.  Like an episode from Top Gear but this time in Spanish, the King’s nave led by the brilliant Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa the Turncoat and Captain Jack/Blackbeard crew headed to find this marvel.  Filmed in Hawaii the scenery was breathtaking and as I say the action was always just around the corner and kept you well and truly entertained.

However, along the way came the only real dark and slightly disturbing element.  Mermaids are not evil, well Ariel certainly is not and for small children (I suppose that is why it’s a 12A) would be scared stiff of the way the Mermaids acted and killed Sailors and Pirates.  I think those scenes were nightmares waiting to happen in any child and you may want to distract them with a toilet break at that point especially as the film is 2 hrs 15 mins long.

The fountain was found by Jeremy, Hammond and Captain Slow in the end and the usual good versus evil, twist and turns and queues for perfectly timed Depp quips ensued.

The story itself would make a great new Monkey Island computer game for those of you that remember Guybrush.  It was an afterthought and I am still not convinced the title has anything to do with the story!  It was, as I said not deep or dark but fun and fast.  It was entertaining and far more like the first movie than the second and third.

I would defiantly recommend you go and see this film. Don’t bother with the 3D and do not think it’s an Oscar winner.  Its good fun, exciting and entertaining.  The film has some great action scenes, wonderful one liners and a hop a long story that keeps you smiling right until the 3D credits roll at the end.  And the score, well just like all the rest Hans Zimmer does a great job and to hear it played in a theatre like the Empire was amazing.