It isn’t easy being in Hollywood. What would you do, if a trilogy is able to convert its meteoric success into more than 2 billion dollars in revenue? If it's central character is none less than a modern day icon? Move on? Look for greener pastures? It's a no-brainer really. Extend the trilogy as much as possible. So what if the existing director has run out of ideas? Get a new one. So what if some important stars in the cast decide against reprising their roles? Rope in some SUPER-stars. Still doesn't fit? Forget continuity. Go for a spin-off. After all this hard work, wait for those knowledgeable film critics to come down hard on you. After all, according to them, most franchises overstay their welcome after the second or third installments. What hope does a fourth one have? It isn’t easy being in Hollywood.
Hence the famous Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, and yeah there should be a "Captain" in there somewhere) returns, this time seeking the famed Fountain of youth, with his old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and the "pirate which all pirates fear"- Blackbeard (McShane) for company. Also hot on his heels is good ol' Captain Barbossa (Rush, one of the few to reprise his roles), one legged, but not any less determined and a group of Spanish sailors who want to get to the Fountain for an altogether different purpose.
So what else is new apart from the fact that this is the first film in the franchise to be released in 3-D? For starters it's much darker than its predecessors. Metaphorically and literally. You know the former is true when you see a bunch of mermaids mount a fang-attack on the poor sailors. (Disney, what have you done?). You know the latter is true when you carry a squint for most of the movie's runtime trying to make sense of the barrage of non-stop and pointless action sequences. Poor lighting!
The pair of silly goggles you wear for the so-called 3-D effect doesn't help in brightening things up either and apart from the odd sword being jabbed at you, the 3-D is pointless too.
Moreover the first hour of the movie is just so convoluted, confusing and unfunny that the joy of seeing Depp back in Jack's boots quickly wears out. Thankfully though the second hour is just the opposite. Director Marshall just seems to have let himself go in the latter half and ahoy' me hearties - the fun -which is essentially the spirit of the franchise gets re-injected ensuring that you leave the cinema hall with a grin. Most of Jack's trademark lines are missing however and this is where as a viewer you get nostalgic.
As for the cast, Depp, as usual does a fabulous job and he is the only reason the first half holds your interest and that despite him having very limited opportunities to come into his own. Does it even need to be said that he walks away with the best lines in the film? Sample this - he looks at Angelica with a devilish grin and says "Dearie, if you had a sister and a dog, I would choose the dog" Rush is a delight - it is such a welcome change to see him return as Barbossa fresh from playing preacher to a stuttering monarch in the award winning drama - "The King's Speech". Penelope, is a welcome addition to the franchise and in fact has a role as meaty as Depp's. Interesting!
Technically the film is poor. Be it the camera work or even the music which used to be such a strong point for the franchise.
Despite these many disappointments, the film is definitely an improvement over the last one - which was so complicated, twisted and kept mounting sub-plots after sub-plots upon us that we ceased to care after a point. That said have we really got enough of Jack that we are prepared to let him rest in rum-soaked peace? The makers and studios definitely haven't what with the film ending with the promise of a sequel. As said earlier it really really isn’t easy being in Hollywood.
VERDICT - JACK RETURNS IN A SPIN-OFF TO LESS THAN DESIRED EFFECTS BUT HEY, HE IS STILL JACK AND THIS IS STILL PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. SAVVY?
Stars - 3/5.