Here's how the film begins. There's the set up of the finding of the Fountain of Youth where a bunch of anonymous people give exposition.
Then the film cuts to the "fun" sequence where Jack Sparrow pretends to be a judge where he gets to wear a wig and judge outfit. To which there are no stakes, etc. This then leads to...
A scene where a character doles out exposition for over a minute or two as the characters sit in the back of a carriage. Within the first ten minutes of the movie, We're treated to a scene where endless exposition is doled out in the least interesting setting ever. But I guess it's supposed to lead to a switch, which then puts Sparrow in custody, where he then is treated to...
ANOTHER THREE MINUTES OF SOLID EXPOSITION WHERE ALMOST EVERYONE IS SITTING. This one is a little more fun because Richard Griffiths goes so far over the top, but mostly what it does is introduces that Geofrey Rush is back.
This then leads to a chase sequence, which Jeremy I think correctly called "done at half speed" which ends with Sparrow going to a bar where Keith Richards gives him another minute or so of exposition, which then leads to him meeting someone who's doubling him, which then leads to even more exposition. This is the opening reel of the movie.
Exposition in and of itself isn't a bad thing, it can set up a narrative and reveal character. But here we know the characters, and nothing about the exposition informs so much as it creates the narrative that isn't really on screen. To wit, Sparrow is suposedly in love with Penelope Cruz. But he has to talk about it because they have no chemistry on screen. At no point did I know where any of the three competing groups were in their search, and when I did see where they were the lags never made much sense, nor did their plans.
Blackbeard is introduced by having magical powers which he then never uses again, And some say this is because he can only use them on the boat, but if that's the case, if he has the power to catch things with ropes while on his boat, then the Mermaid sequence is even stupider than suspected, or then if he's got zombies, why doesn't he use them more? The cart being put before the horse is the MO of this entire movie, so that Sparrow has to jump off of a really high cliff is set up with a scene that goes nowhere, and tells us too much without consequences.
Then there's the action, which is all pretty half baked. Like the cliff jumping, or the escape sequence, which is incoherently staged. When it ends with the tie-up, it felt like the only way that would work is if all the Spaniards were S&M freaks and let themselves be tied up. And then the end where you have two older English gentlemen trading parries while about a dozen extras trade sword swings in the background, and none of it adds up to much - very exciting.
Why did they only get one tear from the mermaid when her face was wet? Why did the Spaniards steal the cups and take them to the one place they could be used if there plan was not to use them? How could anyone seriously know how to use the cups that require such elaborate means to make the fountain of youth work? Etc. etc. All narratives exist to tell a story, but if the machinations of that narrative become self evident that they exist solely to get to the next set piece, it usually considered bad writing. This is another in a long line of Hollywood films that is bloated (seriously, why all the elaborate opening machinations, when you can simply put a Pirate on a boat searching for X?), character-free nonsense that lacks any sort of visual panache. I don't get being forgiving of this sort of bad movie-making.