If you didn't like the first two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels and thought that the franchise was finished at that point... well, quite simply, you had *no idea* what lameness was coming next. I am of the somewhat rarer opinion that the first sequel was good and the second... well, not so much. But even I didn't think that it'd quite get to this point.
I was well prepared for this movie to stink, at least. For one thing, we got a new director--Rob Marshall--who had no prior experience in action/adventure movies whatsoever, which at least explains why his direction is leagues behind Gore Verbinski's. That, and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley had opted out of the movie--which pretty much already meant the film probably never should've been made, since it left us without two of our four beloved main characters and it meant that the mess at the end of At World's End couldn't be fixed in this film. This movie never really had a chance to be any good. That said, I still expected a *little* more from it than this.
Picking up more or less where Jack's story in At World's End left off, he is on a search for the Fountain of Youth. Ironically, at the same time, *everyone* is after it. The Spanish Navy is about to discover it... and Britain is not having that. To the point where they're willing to allow Jack himself to guide the expedition if necessary. Also, the pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is after it for his own reasons. Jack ends up getting mixed up with Blackbeard on his personal quest... due to the fact that Blackbeard's daughter is his former flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz).
So everyone's after the Fountain of Youth. And it turns out to be... more complicated than thought possible. You see, using the Fountain's waters requires a ritual... which includes a mermaid tear that has to be placed in one of two chalices. Oh yeah, and unlike normal depictions of the Fountain, it doesn't make you immortal or youthful at all, really. It just gives you the extra years of another person's total lifespan... after consuming that person entirely.
As you can see, the whole "Fountain of Youth" thing is made more complicated than it needs to be. Though I suppose when you don't have any real conflicts anywhere else in the movie, you don't have much of a choice but to think up stuff like that.
There is sadly not much plot to this. There's the over-complicated Fountain of Youth quest, a couple of the usual double-crosses, and that's pretty much it. A couple of the actual bigger issues of the film and how they happened are actually never explained. Even At World's End didn't really have any massive plot holes, at least.
The action sequences range from decent to cookie-cutter. Maybe it's just Rob Marshall's direction or something, but they feel a bit more subdued than usual. But that's even more true of the humor. There's a few funny moments here and there, but Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush don't make you smile as much as they have in previous installments. Clearly they were not given a strong script to work with.
I've seen films I've actively disliked much worse than this; there's not a whole lot that's truly horrible about it (even if the plot is rather dumb at times). But there's hardly anything outstanding about it either. Even At World's End, which was bloated to the extreme and slow-paced, still had its fair share of awesome moments. But it's pretty clear to me that Rob Marshall had no idea how to make a good Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But I guess that shouldn't be too shocking when most of your other movies are musicals.
It's honestly depressing that this franchise has even gotten to this point. There aren't really any other ones like it out there; it's a very original set of stories in a Hollywood filled with unoriginal stories and remakes. So the fact that since Dead Man's Chest things have gone downhill is just sad. And though At World's End was disappointing, it still felt like the franchise could be great again with some work. This one? Not even close to being great. Huge fans of Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow *might* find a bit of enjoyment here, but it's easy to see why people are trying to forget this particular installment ever happened.