One thing you'll often hear about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies is that they have lots of subplots. Huge, gaping fields full of subplot acreage. But since those would be too difficult (and too boring) to detail, I went with the next most important thing to the Pirates movies: the special effects.
No, I went with a handy little character guide to let you know who is who, who betrayed who between movies, and who's on board just to remind the audience of which side character has the map to the urn that holds the key to the cage that houses the fountain of youth or the golden calf or whatever valuable artifact everyone's chasing this time around.
Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) -- He used to be the hilarious guy dancing just outside the margins of a standard (but very flashy and fun) adventure movie. Audiences went nuts for the Captain, and so his role was widened, lengthened, broadened, you name it ... and by the time Part 4 opens, he's half James Bond and half blithering idiot who doles out as much exposition as he does quips. This time around, Jack is after the legendary Fountain of Youth, the location of which is on a map that gets torched but it doesn't matter.
Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) -- n/a
Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) -- He used to be a devilish but fun villain (remember that?) but became Jack's reluctant ally once all those witches and natives and Krakens (oh my!) got involved. Now he's on board to shanghai a subplot that pits him against an all-new villain ...
Blackbeard (Ian McShane) -- Half a very cool villain, half a talky blowhard prone to speeches, he's also after the fountain, the map, Captain Jack, Captain Barbossa (I think), there's a voodoo doll and some alleged zombies involved. It's all very confusing. And since a big villain always needs some interminable emotional baggage, Blackbeard also comes with a daughter (sold separately).
Angelica (Penelope Cruz) -- She starts out as a Jack Sparrow impostor (oooh, first act spoilers!), then she poses as Blackbeard's daughter, but then she reverses that and I think it turns out that she really is Blackbeard's daughter. She's also very dangerous around A) swords, B) Jack's heart, and C) the English language.
Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) -- n/a
Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) -- God bless the character actor who is able to take a role that's 70% exposition foil and turn it into something slightly fun. This character has always wavered between semi-sidekick and plot-dispenser, but here he gets to sail with Barbossa and actually work himself into the wacky plot somehow.
Philip (Sam Claflin) -- We meet the pious Philip as he hangs from Blackbeard's rafters. The character gets less interesting from there. If Captain Jack didn't hog so much of the flick, we'd get a lot more of Philip. Thanks, Jack.
Captain Admiral Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) -- Still dead from Part 3, which makes no sense since there are dead creatures aplenty in these movies. Seriously though, I'm still annoyed at how flaccidly Norrington went down in Part 3. Dammit.
Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) -- Also still dead, which is fine because he got really annoying by the beginning of Part 3.
Syrena (Astrid Berges-Firisbey) -- OH, I totally forgot to mention that the Fountain of Youth runs on mermaid tears. This is the mermaid from which numerous parties will try to extract said tears. It's all sort of creepy, truth be told. Why couldn't the Fountain of Youth run on mermaid saliva? Anyway, Philip (remember him?) aims to protect Syrena from all the tear-obsessed guys called Captain running around the jungle.
Captain Teague (Keith Richards) -- Pops up just long enough in Part 4 to make us fear old age. He gives Jack (spoiler: his son) some key information about something involving a map and the fountain and some mermaids I think.
Pintel & Righetti (Lee Arenberg & Mackenzie Crook) -- Nowhere to be found. A dual omission that's just dumb. They're hilarious!
Scrum (Stephen Graham) -- Is he a sidekick? A turncoat? Comic relief? Act III emotional death scene material? Exposition spout? He's all these things and more. Also he plays music!
Bonus picks: a broadly disgusting Richard Griffiths as a scuzzy king, the ethereally gorgeous Gemma Ward as a mermaid we see too little of (wink wink), and a great British actress in a weird cameo that I won't spoil here. Even though I didn't like the flick all that much.