Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End feels like the final chapter of this shockingly successful franchise (the whole shebang has been crafted from a Disney theme park ride), and one can only hope it is. While the first two films skirted by on charm and sheer energy, At World’s End clunks through three hours of excessive characterization and exposition – and none of it makes any sense. Worse yet, someone along the line thought it would be a good idea to let Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, easily the two weakest links of the series, steer this ship. I’d rather go to a wax museum.
Focused plots have never been a Pirates specialty, but here it goes: The film picks up right where Dead Man’s Chest leaves off, with Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) presumed dead at the clutches of the Kraken. Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), Will Turner (Bloom), and the newly resurrected Captain Barbossa (Rush) set out to rescue Sparrow. Their first stop is Singapore, where they meet up with Sao Feng (Fat), an infamous Pirate Lord who provides them with a map to the edges of the Earth. Their voyage eventually lands them in a battle with their old nemeses, Davey Jones (Nighy) and Lord Cutler Beckett (Hollander). Sprinkled in are some bits about Jones’ heart and a cameo by Keith Richards, whom I don’t even think is wearing any makeup.
Taking on a much darker tone, there is little joy in At World’s End. I never thought I’d say this, but there is too little Jack Sparrow in this movie. Depp does his bloody best with what he’s got to work with, but the character shows signs of wear the longer the film goes on. He makes his signature quips and perfectly-timed facial expressions, but what more does he have to offer? It’s amazing that a franchise that has lasted for three two-plus hour movies and doesn’t even make an effort to progress any of the main players.
Once things finally get going (it takes about forty-five minutes), the bulk of the duties are handed to Knightley and Bloom, the two whiniest characters who always draw chuckles when they try to be serious. Neither constitutes a good actor, and has anyone, at any point, cared about their relationship? It’s based on convenient deceptions and has never even created a single spark, so why give them the floor? It is nice to have Barbossa back, and Geoffrey Rush steals every scene he’s in with his “arggh” (the best of the bunch) and wide-eyed overacting. He’s the most under-appreciated aspect of this series, and resurrecting him is a wise move.
The climax, in which the two rival ships battle it out during a maelstrom, is mighty impressive from a technical standpoint, but the viewer has long since dozed and lost interest by the time it rolls around. Hamstrung by bad plotting and banal dialogue, not to mention the fact that basically anyone who we think is dead can be resurrected at will, it’s nearly impossible to care.
As has been the case so far this summer with every film that ends with a “3” or variation thereof, Pirates needs to call it a day. No significant steps have been taken and the producers are simply playing their audience for fools, knowing they’ll shell out the $10 (and probably another $10 in gas with the way things are) to see this. After the credits rolled I felt like entering the theater lobby and doing my best impression of Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun, as the fireworks store blows up in the background: “Please disperse, there’s nothing to see here!”
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 168 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images.
Theatrical Release: May 25, 2007
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio. Characters by Elliott & Rossio & Stuart Beattie & Jay Wolpert.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy