I absolutely loved the first three Pirates of the Carribean movies, whose audacity at using a Disney World theme park ride as inspiration proved that it ain't the idea that's important, but what you do with it.
While none qualify as perfect, the combination of actor Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski (whose latest piece is the wonderful Rango (2011)) was a made in Heaven marriage, making the films quirky original fun (although they all could have stood a bit of trimming) .
Verbinski's first major hit was The Ring (2002) (a remake of the Japanese horror film Ringu (1998); an extremely rare example of a remake that is actually as good as the original). He's a more commercially successful version of Terry Gilliam; our first encounter with Depp's character, Jack Sparrow, in Davy Jone's Locker (in the third film) is pure Monty Python.
Unfortunately, Verbinski has apparently tired of repeatedly visiting the same well, and the fourth film in the series ( Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) ) was helmed by Rob Marshall, who directed Chicago (2002). While I loved that musical, it's not even in the same universe as the Pirates films.
That was a major uh-oh for me right there; Verbinski's as warped as the Coen Brothers (I suspect he lives in a padded cell when he's not working), and Marshall's as normal as they come. That did not bode well for a continuation of the inspired lunacy of the first three films.
On the other hand, giving me a bit of hope was the addition of this man to the mix...
Ian McShane (looking a bit like his Deadwood charcter, Al Swearengen)
- from twitchfilm.net
... to play the role of Blackbeard...
(From The Hollywood Gossip website)
Now this is a guy I have worshiped ever since Deadwood; an actor of Shakespearean competence, almost incapable of ever being boring.
But, no matter how good he is, he cannot get the job done all by himself!!!
First problem: The writing. In addition to the original team of Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, the IMDB lists at least three others, making this art by committee.
Second: as a director Rob Marshall was great doing Chicago, but an action movie with supernatural overtones just ain't his element.
So, is the movie terrible? Just plain bad?
Far worse; it's just there. Appallingly average. Verbinski didn't always succeed at what he shot for, but at least he took the shot. I can't see that Marshall even tries.
The most heart-breaking thing about this movie is the lost opportunity; the feeling of what could have been.
I went to the movie ready to give it a chance, eager to love it.
Bottom line: Save your money. Sigh. :(