Full review: Two days ago, I was invited to a special pre-screening of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides", therefore I'm able to provide an exclusive early review of the film one day before its wide release. For better or worse, this fourth installment has a new director behind it, and it certainly shows - Rob Marshall changes the course, and gives a completely different feel to the movie, though at times you may find yourself missing Verbinski's delightful over-the-top-ness. Story-wise, this installment is a bit more adventurous than its two predecessors, and although it drags a bit here and there, it manages to engage and entertain the viewer throughout its 137 min running time, mostly thanks to its witty, well-written script and amusing characters. However, "On Stranger Tides" is by no means the the best installment in the insanely popular franchise (nor is the worst), as it suffers from slight narrative and pacing problems. The film feels a bit inconsistent at times, as it alternates vigorous action scenes with slow too-much-talking ones. Being the first ever ""Pirates of the Caribbean" movie shot in Disney Digital 3D, "On Stranger Tides" boasts some amazing technical qualities, and is quite slick, visually. Although Rob Marshall's skills behind the camera can't match with Verbinski's creativity and stylishness, he still manages to deliver in terms of directing versatility, providing us with lots of inventive camera angles, clever close-ups, and dynamic camera work. The mermaid attack scene in particular is undoubtedly the highlight of the movie, and deserves a special mention, as it's so thrilling, beautifully-shot and stunningly spectacular, you can't help but being wowed and amazed by it. The cinematography's color palette may not be as vivid, bright and colorful as in the previous films, but Marshall compensates with some stunning settings, gorgeous locations, and tons of slick and cool, yet hardly overblown special effects. Due to the fact that this installment is being shot-in-3D, and not post-converted, the 3D itself is not bad at all, and it definitely gives a visual depth to the movie, making it more appealing to the eye. The one and only Johnny Depp delivers his best performance in the franchise since the original film - he steals the show yet again as the charmingly-goofy, hysterically-amusing and delightfully-quirky Captain Jack Sparrow. Not sure if it's because of her pregnancy during the shooting of the film, but the fascinating Penelope Cruz seems a bit distracted and not very involved with her character. Although she does a good job overall, she's not as strong, charismatic and alluring as she usually is. Geoffrey Rush turns in another great performance as Captain Barbossa, and he's a true pleasure to watch. This installment also presents a brand-new character, Blackbeard, brilliantly-acted by the legendary Ian McShane.
Overall summary: Not nearly as great as the original, yet on par with "Dead Man's Chest", and definitely an improvement over "At World's End", "On Stranger Tides" feels refreshing and different thanks to Rob Marshall's trademark visual style, plus, it offers a fun and adventurous story, interesting characters, plenty of spectacular set-pieces and enough thrilling action to please any fan of the franchise.