There was nowhere to go but up after Pirates 3: At World's End, which was a lot of sound and fury signifying utter contempt for its audience.
Original trilogy director Gore Verbinski went off to direct Rango (good move), so reboot duties went to Chicago director Rob Marshall (uh-oh). On Stranger Tides isn't a return to the grand form of the first Pirates, but the absence of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley provides an instant charisma boost, and Tides is certainly equal to the underrated second film.
Marshall keeps things fleet of foot, despite the excessive running time, and Johnny Depp steps back into the role of Jack Sparrow like a seasoned sitcom star. But Geoffrey Rush, fresh off his King's Speech triumph, is the MVP here. It's difficult to imagine where a prospective Pirates 5 would sail, but a Barbossa spinoff? That just might be worth a launch.