The first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, directed by Gore Verbinski, were thoughtful fantasies with well fleshed out characters and earned Disney $2.5 billion. They capitalized on Johnny Depp's single greatest character - Captain Jack Sparrow - and ran with it.


After the third one, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" Verbinski bailed to go on and directed the Oscar winning "Rango" animated feature. Disney, thirsty for more money, turned to "Chicago" and "Memoirs of a Geisha" director Rob Marshall to helm the confusing "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" leaving fans of the franchise top openly beg for it to be the last act. Sadly, it earned a solid $1 billion globally second only to "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest", the second installment. Deep in our hearts we all knew what was coming.


Hollywood, just doesn't walk away from the chance to earn a billion bucks, it doesn't work that way. So Disney turned to the writing tandem of Terry Rossio ("On Stranger Tides", "National Treasure: Book of Secrets", "Lone Ranger") and Jeff Nathanson ("The Terminal", "Catch Me if you Can", "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull") along with the discount Norwegian directing team of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg to develop a fifth installment. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer gave them $230 million and most of the returning cast plus Oscar winner Javier Bardom. The dice have been rolled.

However, one glaring truth stands out, Johnny Depp's last few films - "The Rum Diary", "Dark Shadows", "The Lone Ranger", "Transcendence", "Mordecai", "Black Mass", and "Alice Threw the Looking Glass" - were domestic box office disasters. They only made money because of foreign interest; though "Mordecai" and "Rum Diary" even failed globally. So banking on Depp is now a risky business as his box office appeal diminishes.


Nevertheless, here we are with the fifth installment as we learn that a young Jack Sparrow sent the Spanish pirate-hunting Captain Salazar to a water hell of the undead in the Devils Triangle when he was a youngster. It was that one maneuver that gained him the respect of all the other survivors and his pirate notoriety. Salazar was left doomed to eternal damnation cursing the mere existence of Sparrow as he sought to escape is eternal prison.


By chance, Sparrow unknowingly unlocks the prison with his always present magical compass and Salazar's ghost is set free. But Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is also after Sparrow after striking a deal with Salazar's ghost.

Sparrow winds up teamed with a young scientist Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who is seeking the Trident of Poseidon which has the power to lift all sea curses. This includes the curse on Orlando Bloom's character Will Turner whose son Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is also looking for the Trident.


That is the story in its simplest form and should be easy to follow, even for children. That is despite the seemingly endless number of special effect filled escapes by the various characters; mainly Sparrow.


In other words it is rather entertaining and not nearly as confusing as the last installment. That doesn't say it doesn't have blatant faults.


The single biggest fault is the pirates landing on an island littered with diamonds and rubies toward the end of the film, yet not one of the pirates seems even the least interested in the chance to score a magnificent pirates treasure. Instead they are only interested in finding the valueless Trident just to lift a few curses. Hogwash! There are other mistakes, but none more glaring than that. Correcting that would have rounded out all the characters and the story.


Bardem, Rush and Depp fulfill their acting obligations and don't screw it up... too much. Scodelario realizes her role as the new smart girl for the franchise.


"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is at best, better than the overblown and confusing "On Stranger Tides" and gives glimpses as a Jack Sparrow origin story. But that's about it.   -- GEOFF BURTON