Then Pirates of The Caribbean came roaring into theaters, and that was the end of Johnny Depp as an actor. Yes, he’s made a few smaller films since that film shattered everyone’s expectations, and yes, he’s still one of the most talented people working in Hollywood. But Pirates of The Caribbean: Curse of The Black Pearl seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the Ed Wood-Johnny Depp. In his place, we got…Captain Jack Sparrow. At first, this was fine and dandy– we all loved Jack Sparrow– but three films and a billion dollars at the box office later, the schtick’s worn thin, Ed Wood-Johnny Depp is a rapidly-fading memory, and Pirates of The Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides is here to rub it in all our faces.On Stranger Tides? It’s more like The Curse Of The Bloated Blockbuster as the series’ much-heralded back-to-basics approach founders on the rocks of dull backstory, too many characters and a sense of tiredness.With that are-we-nearly-there-yet? running time, Pirates 4 offers convincing proof this franchise has lost its sea legs.It kicks off in 18th century London with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) cheating the gallows only to be ensnared by former love Angelica (Penélope Cruz – her eyes practically screaming, ‘get me out of here’).Forming an uneasy alliance with her and her dad Blackbeard (Ian McShane), they sail off to find The Fountain Of Youth, also being sought by the Spaniards. Along the way, they meet man-eating mermaids, zombie deckhands and Sparrow reunites with one-legged pal Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
It says a lot that Pirate veterans Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom have jumped ship, but Depp is back thanks to a reported £40m pay cheque. As far as value for money goes, that makes him the Fred Goodwin of acting, with his turn as the fey and unbalanced seaman rather one-note, while Sparrow’s backstory clogs up the film’s first 40 minutes.His relationship with Angelica is also so simplistic and devoid of spark it could have been written by a child.If you can be bothered, look out for small, pointless appearances from Judi Dench and Rolling Stone Keith Richards as Sparrow’s dad. Again.Depp said this movie was going to take us back to the pared-down but exuberant first film, The Curse Of The Black Pearl. But director Rob Marshall has taken us back to the lob-everything-at-the-screen formula of Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Even compared to these, the gags are a little less funny, the action a little less gripping and the gaps between both a little bit longer.