**BELOW BE SPOILERS** Gone is the charm and the swashbuckling adventure of the first film, replaced by a desire to be 'dark' and 'deep', which merely serves to rob the film of any good nature it may have had. Gone too is the menace of Bill Nighy's Davey Jones, such a terrifying character from the second instalment, now reduced to a mere comedy character in this (save for one moment of skull-crushing), playing second fiddle to the laughable Lord from the EITC who seems as threatening as anyone can in a silly wig and posh accent up against Rush, Depp et al. The quite frankly dull plot from Pirates 2 is here whipped to death and then, for good measure, whipped again with an unlikely and, to be quite frank, confusing conclusion. The resurrection of Rush's Barbosa (one of the few and far between highpoints of the films) is dismissed in a sentence, whilst the other characters, we are led to understand, do not even question why they can trust a man who was, 7 months previous, attempting to kill them all.
In terms of performances; Depp and Rush excel, much as they did in Pirates 1, with Rush nearly stealing the entire movie from under Depp's nose (a reverse on what happened previously) and they make for the sole entertainment. Knightly and Bloom crying out nautical terms is, quite frankly, laughable as is the notion that nay one of a crew of supposedly battle-hardened pirates would listen to them. They are severely out of their depth and have none of the wide-eyed awe that actually made them endearing in "Curse...". Jack Davenport's Norrington, who showed so much potential to be a truly dark and unbalanced character in the last outing, is treated as a fopp again for the less-talented Knightly, though his 'Heroes Death' was good to see. Nighy, as said, is a shadow of his former menacing self.
By the time you reach half way through you should be ready to give up, there's only so much CGI will do for a film before you realise "hang on..this is terrible" (step forward Star Wars III and The Matrix Revolutions, both terrible 3's in their own rights) but a few things will keep you in that chair; Depp, Rush, a star turn for all of 3 minutes by Keith Richards (providing a genuine laugh-out-loud moment) and the desire to find out exactly how they intend the damn thing to end. That much I won't give away, but I'm telling you this, three-quels are proving to leave on such diabolical endings (again, SW:III, Matrix3, Spidey3) that you shouldn't expect much better here.
Only the promise of the dialogue between Depp and Rush would bring me back for 4, and keep those damn kids out of it!