Straight away, I do not hate this film, I don't dislike the film. I'm not of the opinion that I really like it either. Instead, I enjoyed my time with the film, but when it was over I felt like... that's it? Really? The coolest effect in the entire film is a set of captured ships in bottles, caught in the maelstrom of their capture. The zombies were limp. The mermaids, kind of interesting. The fountain of youth? Kind of reminded me of THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER... and I love the SPANISH designs upon the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH... and I really love watching Captain Jack Sparrow, no matter what he does. He makes me smile, the whimsy in his everything just strikes my fancy.
That said... that's the whole of my pleased as punchness.
The problem with this film is a whole host of missed opportunities.
1st and foremost - there's the lack of HEART in the film. Nobody is sincerely doing anything for any reason whatsoever. Jack is seeking the Fountain of Youth, because he's forced to. Barbosa for the opportunities it gives him. Penelope Cruz is seeking it to fill her father's soul - but I'm not sure if it was ever illustrated that GOD has anything to do with the Fountain... and that it acts like the Holy Grail? I don't think so. All it would have given Blackbeard was a chance to relive his life for the better - going forward. But he exhibits no signs of being able to do that. In fact, the very devised mechanics by which the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH works would forego any kind of salvation, as it effectively works like the Space Vampires from LIFEFORCE in a manner of speaking.
The "romance" between Jack and Angelica (Ms Cruz) is of the past. This is another of those wannabe Indy & Marion relationships - but without the passion or the connection. I don't know if you can have Jack build a real romance on film, because at his soul, he's a clown - not to be taken seriously by man or woman. That is how he has a power. You marvel at him in words & action, but he never stays still long enough to see the soul of his eyes, and if you think about a heartfelt kiss... he won't be there for it. He's kind of the reverse PePe LePew that way. He can get you to swoon, but that's all he's really interested in. The seizing of your desires, not the bedding. Not the family and the long life together. He has his compass which leads him to his heart's content. THAT one device allows him to find whatever his heart desires - if he gives his heart to another, that compass becomes worthless - and he becomes ordinary.
Ok - so if Angelica and Jack can't work, where's the heart?
There's a very half-hearted play at creating a heart with Sam Claflin's Philip - a man of the cloth that is found bound to the mast of Blackbeard's ship, but later has an interesting relationship form with a mermaid that he seems to think is named Syrena. Astrid Berges-Frisbey, who plays the mermaid in question is a very beautiful woman. And her face, in what times she has on screen is quite emotional... But there simply isn't enough here to make us care.
Oddly enough, the best motivation in the entire film for a character's actions belongs to Geoffrey Rush (the best actor of the film) and his Barbossa. He tells tale of how he lost the Black Pearl and his Right Leg. This tale should have been a pre-credit adventure. Had that happened, had we see Barbossa hacking away at his own leg as to not be taken by Blackbeard... had he seen all his men taken, his beloved monkey... left with a lifeboat and nothing else... It could have been something. Really. Instead, you really have to stay with the film a long time to figure out what his character is doing, but when you find out - it has very little weight from the audience. It's just a bit of dialogue - and it doesn't have the pain & hatred behind it. Had that been there... my God, it would have been something.
Same with the Philip & Syrena plotline. Had they both been imprisoned in the belly of Blackbeard's ship... had we built a captive relationship.. and had we been given the pay off of what happens to a man who is pure of heart, when a mermaid takes him to the depths... and had that whatever been spectacular... well golly - it could've been something.
Instead - this feels like an entire adventure that is meant to set up the next adventure. And I'm looking forward to seeing that. After all... Barbosa has an amazing new power at the end of the film. Jack Sparrow is practically on his way to being an admiral pirate, and Angelica has a trick of her own (if you stay for the post credit scene).
The film needed less exposition and more going on of a spectacular nature. There isn't a single thing in this film that compares to the best scenes of the previous 3. There's nothing really fantastical that has any weight to it. Not at the scale of the Kraken or Davy Jones or the Undead Pirates or The Other Side or even those awesome fucking CRABS!
The only thing that really works great is Captain Jack Sparrow, but he's basically treading water waiting to get his Pearl. SO - what you have here is something that amounts to an "ok" season premiere episode - that is all about setting up Barbosa, Sparrow and Angelica - to knock noggins in a future tale. They set them up. That said, fierce Cruz is not my favorite. She's a 1000 times more powerful an actress when she's allowed to be emotionally invested as a character and a story. Put opposite the clown, she feels like a deer in headlights. Just staring.
I paid $45 to see this at the IMAX 3D here in Austin, and it looked beautiful, but the whole film just feels small. It doesn't really ever soar and I'd go so far as to say it never attempts a full take off.
I know... How can I not just hate this film? Well, I love Disneyland & I love the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN... I love seeing this kind of pirate adventure, I love Capt Jack Sparrow - but I'd kill to see what Guillermo Del Toro would do with these characters. Or give Terry Gilliam the reins. Edgar Wright would make one that would bend minds.
Rob Marshall provided yet another reason to realize that pursuing the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH is the folly for a man who has never lived a full life to begin with - and Sparrow says as much at the end of the film.
SO what's the final verdict?
A lazy ill-thought out romp with Characters I love, not doing the things they're capable of, but not sinking the franchise.