There’s a hole or two in this pirate ship.
Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Chow Yun-Fat
There’s a hole or two in this pirate ship.
Maybe I’m getting dimmer as the years go by. That’s the only way I can explain the confusion I felt as ‘At World’s End’, the third instalment in the lucrative ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise, crashed over me like a the most expensive computer-generated tidal wave money can buy.
I swear, there were times during this unwieldy behemoth’s nearly three-hour running time when I could hear my inner Homer Simpson wailing “Who’s doing what to who now?”
But maybe it’s not me. Maybe ‘At World’s End’ suffers from an increasingly common problem, one that’s afflicting more and more souped-up, super-sized blockbusters – a need to pack in as much plot as possible.
Not that I’m complaining about a dense, multi-layered or even complex plot, mind you. But when a flow chart and a catalogue of characters is required to keep up with what should really be a couple of hours worth of swashbuckling and swordplay, I for one am ready for mutiny.
The trajectory of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series reminds me of the ‘Matrix’ trilogy’s rise and fall. By the time ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ tried to resolve that series’ convoluted storylines in its final episode, the whole enterprise had started to disintegrate.
‘At World’s End’ isn’t quite as tragic a misstep as that – there’s a fair bit of rollicking fun to be had here – but it mostly comes across as a chore rather than a joy. Even the people involved seem dispirited or exhausted by the sheer effort of untangling its many plot threads.
So I’m not sure how successful I’ll be laying it all down for you. It all begins with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and the resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) enlisting the aid of dreaded Singapore pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) to travel beyond the edge of the map to locate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).
Captain Jack was consigned to the bizarre netherworld of Davy Jones’ Locker at the end of the previous movie, ‘Dead Man’s Chest’, after being swallowed by that massive sea monster known as the Kraken.
But he’s needed by his comrades because (a) a big battle between the pirates and the power-hungry East India Trading Company is a-brewin’, and (b) Depp is the main reason people see ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies.
Once Captain Jack is rescued, a straightforward showdown between the posse of pirates and the Trading Company (which has fearsome, fish-faced Davy Jones, played by Bill Nighy, on its side) should transpire.
Before we can get to that, though, there’s betrayal and backstabbing galore, not to mention a lot of talk about the code of piracy, a bit of lamenting over love gone wrong and a lot of guff about Calypso, queen of the sea, to wade through.
If you’re so inclined, I recommend re-watching ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ before catching ‘At World’s End’, if only to refresh your memory about who’s who and what’s what in the ‘Pirates’ canon. That said, there’s a lot in this movie that’s poorly articulated, whether it’s the introduction of new characters or the departure of old ones.
Director Gore Verbinski and writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio struggle mightily to bring the odd spark of individuality to this project but it really does feel like something that was constructed rather than created.
Depp does his thing, and he does it well, but for mine Rush and Chow (who’s not used enough) offer far more compelling performances, thanks to their big, broad-stroke villainy.
However, one of the most effective performances in At World’s End comes from a non-actor. Cited by Depp as inspiration for his Captain Jack performance, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards pops up in a cameo role as an elder-statesmen pirate and father of Captain Jack.
Effortlessly conveying decades of debauchery and dangerous behaviour, he makes Depp look like a pretender. If we must have a fourth ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie (quite frankly, though, the series could use a rest), let it follow father and son Sparrows as they hit the high seas.
Reviewer : Guy Davis
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