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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 22


Starring Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Chow Yun-fat, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Kevin R. McNally, David Bailie, Jonathan Pryce and Keith Richards.

Screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.

Directed by Gore Verbinski.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 168 minutes. Rated PG-13.

We are stuck right in the middle of the season of the threes, so right on the heels of Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third comes the (apparently) final chapter of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Okay, let's get the suspense over with right away. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is much better than the second movie, but not nearly as good as the first.

At World's End is a rousing bit of commercial filmmaking – if overly long and probably a bit too complicated for its own good. Still the nearly three hours of running time do pass pretty quickly. The story occasionally sputters or bogs down from the myriad of plot threads and the climactic battle sequence, while effective, seems too impersonal and effects driven – it's occasionally war as a massive soulless spectacle like found in the Lord of the Rings films.

It's still a lot more enjoyable than the last chapter, Dead Men's Chest. (Which is interesting, because the two stories were filmed concurrently.) At World's End has enough of the goofy spectacle, intriguing plot twists and the fun of the original to give it a very real, if slightly qualified, recommendation.

The first thing you notice right off the bat – in a scene where dozens of people suspected of being pirates, including a small child, are hanged by the East India Company – that At World's End is a much darker ride than the previous installments.

At World's End toils mightily to tie up all the threads of the previous movies, even adding a few new characters into the crowded mix.

Even more than in the previous films, the pirates are the heroes, and the real villains of the piece are the so-called respectable politicians and businessmen. In particular the East India Company is shown to be much more untrustworthy and soulless than even the most hardened buccaneer.

The company and the colonial navy have decided to use the tentacled bad guy from the last film, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), to destroy the eight pirate masters and all their followers. They can control Jones because they have his heart in a box.

In order to save the buccaneer lifestyle, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) goes to the newly resurrected Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) to save his mortal enemy, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the weird dream netherworld of Davy Jones' Locker. (Life and death are a lot more fluid concepts in these movies than in the real world.) They seek the help of a pirate lord (Asian film legend Chow Yun-fat in a glorified cameo) in Singapore (these ships seem to be able to span continents in a matter of hours) to find Sparrow and gather the other pirate lords to convene a council to fight off the infiltration.

There are lots of subplots, some interesting, some not so. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom – who again proves to be handsome but a bit of a liability as an actor) is trying to save his father from an eternity in Davy Jones' crew at the same time as trying to save his souring love with Elizabeth. As Elizabeth works her way up the ranks in pirate politics, she seems to lose her fascination with him, even flirting with her hapless ex. To keep offbeat romance in the air, it turns out the love of Davy Jones' life was Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris in the role introduced in the second film), a passion which has not quite worn off for either of them, despite the fact that they are both trapped in bodies which are not natural to them.

As with the first films, Captain Jack is by far the most interesting character – though he is less the center of attention than in the previous films. Depp still has lots of fun with the role and while he's on screen At World's End is always fun and fresh. Also, the return of Rush as Barbosa gives this movie a jolt of fun and humor which the second film seriously missed in his absence. (Even in this film, Nighy's Davy Jones, while a technical movie-making marvel, is a much less interesting bad guy.)

Keith Richards even shows up towards the end in the long-rumored cameo as Captain Jack's father (Depp has often suggested that Richards was the main inspiration for his offbeat characterization), however it turns out to be a bit anti-climactic. Richards' character seems strangely restrained compared to his flamboyant son.

Does At World's End have too much going on? Absolutely. Some of it – for example, the contribution of a female goddess called Calypso – is annoyingly under-explored and unexplained. Not that the film doesn't give us the background, but in the end, we have no idea which side she is helping or hurting – or if she is hurting both – by her intervention into the action.

However, sometimes with a big spectacle like this you just have to decide if you are willing to go with it or not. For the most part, At World's End will keep you hooked and entertained. The action scenes are truly jaw dropping and there is a good amount of humor strewn about the script like stray doubloons. You can ask for more than that (just like the bounty delivered by the first movie), but you can't totally begrudge a movie for delivering enough of the goods rather than delivering too much.

Also, despite the fact that all involved were rather vocal about this being the last voyage of the Pirates franchise, At World's End closes on a note which seems wide open for yet another sequel. So, who knows? If this movie does well enough (and with the box office takes of the other two chapters, it most certainly will), the dead men may tell more tales. (5/07)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: May 26, 2007.


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