I'm a fan of the Pirates franchise. I've always found it enjoyable - even number three, heck At World's End may actually be my favorite. When I heard that they were making number 4 sans Will and Elisabeth, I was kind of happy though, because I couldn't see how they'd fit in to the new film - not with him ferrying the souls of the dead and her doing...whatever.
As you'll see, I wound up missing them. Mild spoilers are below
Genre: Action-Adventure, Pirates, Comedy
Running Time: 2 hours 17 minutes
On the bright side, we have a more-or-less independent standing film where there are few characters that you need to know going in (Jack, Barbossa and Gibbs. A keen eye will recognize the Lt. Commander serving under Barbosa from Beckett's ship) so you're not tied down by the series' own mythology - a change from the previous sequels where knowledge of the previous film was all but mandatory.
The story here is serviceable: The Spaniards want to find the Fountain of Youth to destroy it. The Crown wants it presumably for the waters and/or because the Spaniards are going after it. Jack still wants it, kind of, but more or less seems preoccupied with other matters such as who is impersonating him in London and what happened to the Pearl. I like the Spaniards, and Barbossa's motivations. The rest is just kinda there and a bit more generic feeling that previous plots.
The series has always demanded a measure of suspension of disbelief, but there are moments - such as a flamethrower on the bow of the Queen Anne's Revenge - where it's impossible to muster it. Magic and the supernatural has always been part and parcel of the series (Angelica: I don't know if you believe in the supernatural. Jack: Oh, I've seen things.) but to quote the first movie, it strains credulity to think that Blackbeard could do what he does.
Speaking of the new characters - none of them really wowed me. Despite the menace of Blackbeard, I think Beckett a much more threatening villain. Angelica had her moments and was my favorite of the four, though I wouldn't be sad to not see her in Pirates 5 (though if you stay for the blurb after the credits you know that won't come to pass). As for the priest, he was bland, sanctimonious and had no reason to fall in love with the mermaid. In the movie promo they were making a big deal about how he stayed good while Will had strayed to become a pirate. Why were they bragging about this? Will Turner had some depth to him and some motivation in all three movies. At one point you think the priest might well be dead and I was disappointed to learn I was wrong. As for the mermaid, she was a pretty plot device and nothing more.
There were some good fight scenes (though by this point they've started to feel old hat) and some good one liners, but without question, the series is starting to feel stale. The movie was at its best when it was Barbossa and Sparrow quarreling but there wasn't enough of that for my taste. Plus, at some point their going to run out of plot contrivances to bring him back. They've been lucky so far with ones that have more or less worked well (the second film was so-so, this one actually worked well) but I get the feeling their luck is running is out.
Will you enjoy it?
If you can turn off your brain, it's a decent bit of fun (but don't start thinking, it'll fall apart). If you're a fan of the previous two movies, you may find it fun, but a bit lacking. If you ran out of patience with the series in the last film, it won't sway you back.
I'm a fan, but even I admit - it's time to pull the plug before the Black Pearl runs permanently ashore.
My Grade: C