For a film franchise that began its life as an amusement park ride, Pirates of the Caribbean has had a successful and praise-worthy run. The combination of intelligent writing, enjoyable characters, fantastic performances and a budget, director and special effects to match, ensured that the first installment’s voyage into filmic waters was a roaring success.
So much so that, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) would go onto spawn a further two sequels; last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and the focus of this review, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (henceforth referred to as POTCAWE).
Unfortunately, as has been the case with franchises entering their third phase in 2007 (see Spider Man 3 and the lack-luster reviews for the – as yet – locally unreleased Shrek the Third), POTCAWE is unable to maintain the course the franchise started out on.
With Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) killed at the end of Dead Man’s Chest and taken to Davy Jones’ Locker, his remaining crew and friends – including a recently resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) – assemble to bring him back.
These actions, however, are not motivated by friendship or camaraderie but rather by the on-going eradication of all pirates at the hands of Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and the East India Trading Company. With the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) in his possession Cutler also controls The Flying Dutchman, an unstoppable force on the ocean. Facing extinction the nine pirate lords (of which Jack Sparrow is one) must come together in order to fight back.
It all sounds very dramatic and – if you haven’t seen the two films prior to this one – rather confusing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that tries so hard to explain itself and what is taking place on screen. POTCAWE wrecks, what I thought was in the prior installments at least, a great blend of action and plot/character development.
Dead Man’s Chest, while not perfect, had a sense of urgency and some semblance of direction. At World’s End certainly has direction, as the final chapter in a trilogy we know things are building up to a final stand, but the urgency of Dead Man’s Chest has been replaced with talking pirates. Yes, wordy, long-winded, rambling and loquacious pirates.
POTCAWE, for much of its running time, has pirates explaining to themselves what they are doing, why they are doing it and what the outcome will be if they do or do not do it. This continual exposition simply ruins this chapter of The Pirates franchise.
Sure, the banter and dialogue is often witty and well-thought-out (Yars! abound) but it soon becomes frustrating to watch. Would you rather see a pirate in action or a pirate standing around yakking away? How scriptwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio managed to write these wordy segments is beyond me. Ultimately, their script simply contains too many characters; too many plot details and extremely little originality.
Fortunately, there are chunks devoted to action but again POTCAWE lacks the set pieces (remember the fantastic water wheel sequence in the second film?) or scope (it feels like the film was restricted to using only limited locations) of its predecessors.
The action scenes are rather uninspired and grow boring rather quickly because they fail to outdo sequences from the previous chapters or there is simply too much happening for an extended amount of time (think Bruckheimer’s Pearl Harbor).
The relationship between Knightley and Bloom’s characters is, again, stiff and robotic. Whether the fault lies with the writing, performers or directing I’m not sure, but things simply do not work between the two of them. There is zero spark and when a major plot development hinges on this “relationship” it further weakens At World’s End. I quite honestly was holding thumbs that both characters would die a marvelously bloody death.
As for Depp and his previously Oscar-nominated performance as Sparrow, he again delivers a quirky and haphazard turn but one that also suffers from repetition. Jack Sparrow is less charming this time around and the inclusion of multiple facets of the character (as in more than one Jack Sparrow) make him rather annoying to watch and do more harm than good.
The highlight of this film, however, is the guest appearance by Rolling Stones lead guitarist Keith Richards, whom the Jack Sparrow character is loosely based upon. Richards steals the show and does so in grand style – considering reports that he was drunk through out his three days of shooting.
POTCAWE is a tedious, convoluted mess that offers little new in the way of action or character development. It is fairly obvious that Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were shot back to back because this “final” (who are we kidding?) installment lacks any sense of growth or evolution. I was truly disappointed.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is another Hollywood franchise that fails to deliver with its, supposedly, closing chapter. I was under whelmed almost every step of the way. Thar she blows!