Removing Kiera Knightley from a Pirates of the Caribbean script is only beneficial if she is not replaced by Penelope Cruz. But alas, this was in fact the case. And I may add it did nothing to help the story at all. The idea that Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse of the Black Pearl was nominated for five Academy Awards in 2004 is hard to believe when one weighs the sequels in its wake. At first, the absence of Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley as the romantic plot vehicle seems to be a promising departure from the dreadful sequels Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, but instead the audience is dealt more of the same, barely packaged differently.
As previously mentioned, the female lead is played by Penelope Cruz, taking the painfully convenient role of Blackbeard's daughter but serving no real purpose other than eye candy (which is maximally utilized). The idealistic and uneducated in the ways of the world demi-hero is played by an unknown whose name I have not bothered to look up. Even less may be said of the mermaids, the zombies (whose presence is barely even acknowledged), and all other newcomers to the story. The only exception is Ian McShane as Blackbeard who is possibly the most perfect depiction of the infamous scalawag ever to be seen onscreen.
The biggest disappointments here are Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Rob Marshall. Depp is not doing himself any favors by continuing to reprise the role of Captain Jack Sparrow. Sparrow may always have another trick up his sleeve, but his vices are no longer surprising as he does all the same things he always does from ridiculous swordfights to theatrical escapes, but fails to pull any new rabbits out of the hat. Geoffrey Rush on the other hand tries to take a different angle to Captain Barbossa, but falls flat by overdoing pirate stereotypes right down to a recently acquired peg leg. For a director whose most recognizable credits include Chicago and Nine, it is a mystery why anyone thought Rob Marshall was a good idea to direct a Pirates movie. Innuendos abound in dialogue as well as imagery, and even a few fight scenes have a certain energy to them that seem likely to be found in one of Marshall's signature pieces.
In the end, another sequel fails to live up to its first predecessor, but still lacks the courage to wrap up in any definitive way, just in case they make enough money to justify a part five. Or maybe the minds behind this fiasco are well aware that ideas for original movies are thin on the ground these days, so leaving the possibility open for a sequel seems reasonable, even responsible. But it will not do any good in the end if they keep producing things like this.