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CANNES, France (Reuters) - The latest installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise laid anchor at the Cannes film festival on Saturday, bringing with it a crew of big stars including Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is the fourth film in a series which has made a fortune for Disney with a combined global box office tally so far of $2.7 billion.
Reviews of the new chapter, which hits theatres in the United States on May 20, have been mixed, though, and some analysts predict it may struggle to match the impressive tallies of previous outings even in the 3D format.
Depp said in Cannes that there would be more ahead if the films remained popular: "If the people get tired of it or something, that's when it stops, I think," he told a news conference. "If people want it, I'm there."
In On Stranger Tides, the actor returns to his role as the indomitable Captain Jack Sparrow after a gap of four years, Australian Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa and Rolling Stone Keith Richards puts in another cameo as Sparrow's father.
There are new faces, with Britain's Ian McShane portraying the fearsome Blackbeard and Spaniard Cruz his daughter Angelica.
Once the hero escapes the clutches of the English king, he embarks on a race to reach the Fountain of Youth.
The English and Spanish navies take on Blackbeard's magical ship, run by giant zombie pirates and spewing flames that burn mutineers to a cinder.
They take on vicious mermaids, who lure their victims before bearing fangs and dragging them to the bottom of the sea.
Cruz, 37, who was pregnant while shooting the movie, said staying young was not a personal aim, despite pressure within the movie industry to hold back the years.
"I think birthdays are always something to celebrate," she said. "I'm looking forward to every step of the way. Maybe because I'm from Spain that's looked at in a different way there than for example in a place like Los Angeles."
For Depp, the Pirates franchise has turned him into one of Hollywood's highest earners, but he has not forgotten his roots in commercially unsuccessful features.
"It just so happens that for 20 years or so I made these films that were considered for the most part failures, flops," said the 47-year-old. "I built a career on flops so I was quite comfortable in that arena."
Reviewers of On Stranger Tides were divided.
Trade publication Variety's Andrew Barker said it served "as a welcome corrective, reviving the fun, feather-light frivolity that any film based on a Disneyland ride ought to exhibit."
But Steve Rose of Britain's Guardian did not agree.
"It's a succession of ever-escalating action sequences and grand settings. At first they're stunning, then they're routine, then they're wearying," he said.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White