Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

In an attempt to rescue ‘swishbuckling’ swashbuckler Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the purgatorial locker of squid-pirate Davy Jones (Bill Nighy- almost managing to find the humanity-of sorts, in his fishy character), the temporarily aligned group of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), and possibly reformed buccaneer Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) must request safe transport to the land of the dead, from Asian pirate lord Sao Feng (an appropriately cast Chow Yun-Fat). But wait...why is Barbossa now aligned with former enemies Will and Elizabeth? Well, the Pirate Age appears to be coming to an end, thanks to the nefarious Lord Cutler Beckett (played by Tom Hollander), who has been delivered Davy Jones’ heart by snotty Norrington (Jack Davenport- Why do they persist with this boring git? He’s one character too many in this film, if you ask me), and is seeing fit to wiping out anyone even remotely associated with acts of piracy (so don’t you go copying movies, kids! Movie piracy is stealing!...oh, wait, wrong kind of piracy. Sorry), with Davy Jones as his henchman/puppet (Still with me?). Naomie Harris, Jonathan Pryce, and Stellan Skarsgaard reprise their roles as dopey-accented voodoo chick Tia Dalma, Elizabeth’s fop father, and Barnacle Bill, the accursed father of Will, respectively.

I have a tendency to enjoy the third film in a series a whole lot (“A Nightmare on Elm St. 3: Dream Warriors”, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”, “Rocky III”, “Lethal Weapon 3”, “Return of the Jedi”, etc.), and this 2007 Gore Verbinski (director of the two previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) is at the very least a massive improvement over the previous film, if not quite the equal of the first “Pirates” film. Whilst the previous film spent far too long bringing everybody back together and introducing its new characters before (i.e. Middle Film Syndrome), in the final third, finally telling its own bloody story (albeit an extremely convoluted and overpopulated one), this one seems to get to its own story (or the continuation of the story) in far less time than “Dead Man’s Chest”, with much less catching-up to do or at least catching up on the fly. There’s also only a couple of new additions to the cast to contend with (Chiefly charismatic Yun-Fat and everyone’s favourite weathered Rolling Stone, Keith Richards in an extended cameo as Jack’s dad). The film also resurrects one of the series’ highlights, Rush’s wonderfully old-school pirate Barbossa to lend the film a kind of authority/hammy authenticity, and keeping the two genuinely interesting characters introduced in the otherwise bloated second film (the fishy, Phantom-ish Davy Jones and the tragic Barnacle Bill). Best of all, this one actually allows Depp the opportunity to go into some extremely weird avenues with his character, which by the last film, was becoming a bit tired and one-note. In this one, Cap’n Jack’s even more bizarre and amusing (in an oddly existential, possibly hallucinogenic, David Lynch meets Buster Keaton way) than usual. His comical asides with various hallucinated doppelgangers/miniatures of himself are hysterically funny, as is the scene where Jack and Barbossa channel Abbott & Costello whilst both laying claim to captaining the Black Pearl. Keira Knightley is also enormously appealing and quite underrated (there’s a terrific romantic moment during- of all moments- the climactic battle, that was just priceless, and welcome, given the lack of genuine romance in the second film), though Bloom seems somewhat lost and mopey in this film.

It’s also perhaps the most visually and aurally impressive of the films too, with outstanding, atmospheric cinematography by Dariusz Wolski (the previous “Pirates” films) and rousing score by Hans Zimmer (“Rain Man”, “Backdraft”, “Gladiator”), amusingly referencing spaghetti western specialist Ennio Morricone at one point.

This is a surprisingly imaginative (and consistently entertaining) film given the previous disappointment, not to mention that it’s the third film in a series. However, I really wish the series ended here. Three films spawned from a Disneyland ride is plenty enough, if not way too much already. Scripted by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (the two previous “Pirates” films), it is certainly a bit confusing at times, but I actually found the scenes of characters constantly jockeying for positions to be quite amusing if anything this time out. By the way, I normally love Naomie Harris, but I still say she adopts the single worst and most annoying accent in movie history here (aside from Sally Hawkins’ real accent).

Rating: B-


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