Week 3 of EW’s 2011 Summer Movie Body Count continues with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, starring Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, and Geoffrey Rush. Click here for a reminder of our extremely precise definition for what counts as a death, and how we’re counting them. And since we’re going to be talking about deaths here, the requisite spoiler alert should almost go without saying, but we’ll say it anyhow: SPOILER ALERT!
Syrena the mermaid might look sweet, but don’t be fooled: She comes from a race of bloodthirsty killing machines. In the latest Pirates of the Caribbean flick, Syrena’s fishtailed cohorts murder a whopping 18 buccaneers. (But since Syrena herself is eventually redeemed by the love of a two-legged man, we can safely assume that she isn’t responsible for any of those killings.) That makes Pirates 4 an anomaly among this year’s crop of body-count-heavy summer movies — until now, most of the deaths recorded have been those of CGI beings like frost giants and gross vampires — and also means that the summer film with the highest-yet ratio of human to non-human deaths also happens to be a Disney movie. On Stranger Tides, indeed!
The fourquel kicks off with a body count-baiting fakeout. In its first scene, an apparently deceased man is lifted out of the ocean by a bunch of seafaring Spaniards. But soon enough, the man’s eyes snap open — he’s not dead yet! Knowing that this movie includes zombies as well as mermaids, we assumed that the sodden sailor would go on to enjoy a delightful snack of Spanish brains (a delicacy on the Iberian Peninsula). But as fate would have it, the man isn’t a zombie; he’s just an immortal refugee from the crew of explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.
In fact, nobody dies in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides until well into the film’s first act. After being taken captive by King George II (a ham-tastic Richard Griffiths) and the newly dandified Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, as if you needed to be reminded) escapes Buckingham Palace and is chased through London by a bunch of redcoats. Eventually, he’s cornered by one of the King’s men — then gets saved in the nick of time by his father, Captain Teague (Keith Richards), who shoots the soldier in the back. Good thing all that eyeliner doesn’t affect a man’s aim.
Deaths continue to be few and far between as the movie wears on. We learn that Blackbeard (Ian McShane) has “zombified” his crew, but we never get to see him do so onscreen. At one point, a zombie is stabbed clear through the chest, but is left unharmed. There’s even a curiously bloodless mutiny on Blackbeard’s ship. Finally, though, the most feared pirate on the seven seas lives up to his reputation. Blackbeard forces one of the mutineers to paddle out to sea on a longboat, where the man is incinerated by a flame-spewing Queen Anne’s Revenge. That brings the death count up to two.
But things really pick up post-immolation. One of Captain Barbossa’s men jumps overboard after spotting a Spanish fleet on the horizon; it seems safe to assume that he didn’t manage to swim to shore, so we’re counting him as another death. The real bloodbath, though, begins when Blackbeard’s company attempts to catch a mermaid in Whitecap Bay. Soon after the sirens appear, they quickly transform from hot to homicidal. The mermaids drag two sailors to the bottom of the sea and suffer their own casualties as well — one is stabbed in the stomach as she leaps over the pirates’ longboat, while two more are consumed by Queen Anne’s fire. 16 seamen are subsequently dragged to a watery grave when the mermaids get hold of the ropes the men had been clinging to. After the fighting is over, Blackbeard shoots a member of his own crew for good measure.
Death takes a holiday for the next several scenes as Captain Jack and co. get ever closer to the Fountain of Youth. [EDITED TO ADD: Yes, Barbossa’s ship is also taken down by mermaids — but we don’t know how many people are on board when this happens, and we also don’t see it onscreen, so we’ve made a judgment call not to count those deaths.] Then, after entering the cave that holds the entrance to the fountain, one more pirate is randomly killed by a falling stalactite — spelunking is not a game, kids. A final fight at the Fountain itself sees the deaths of two of Blackbeard’s men, one of Barbossa’s redcoats, and two men of indeterminate loyalties who are crushed by the Fountain’s falling pillar. The only death here that really counts, though, is that of Blackbeard himself. The fearsome privateer is fatally wounded by Barbossa’s poisoned sword, as is his daughter, feisty Angelica (Penélope Cruz). Jack convinces Angelica to drink from a silver chalice containing water from the Fountain as well as Syrena’s tear, telling her that by doing so, she’ll give her father the remaining years of her life. Of course, he’s lying; Blackbeard is the one who bites the dust, leaving Angelica with one hell of a score to settle with Sparrow.
All in all, there are 32 confirmed fatalities in Pirates 4 — no small number, to be sure, but nothing compared to Thor‘s 88 deaths. As On Stranger Tides was last Friday’s only wide release, that brings the Body Count to 187. Next week, we’ll see how a pair of sequels — The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2 — affect our total. In the meantime, take a look at the poll below and take to the comments to discuss your favorite death scene of the summer so far. (Go stalactite!)