The Sun- erm, Review: Pirates of the Caribbean; At World’s End

Thursday 24 May (2007)

pirates of the caribbean - at world's end

Here there be spoilers.

This third and hopefully final installment to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a very frustrating movie. To put it simply, when it’s good, it’s excellent. And when it’s bad? Well, it’s awful.

The plot is confusing: Jack is stuck in pirate limbo in Davy Jones’ Locker, so his faithful crew sail off to find him under the command of a resurrected Barbossa. In the style of Dead Man’s Chest, it’s not quite so simple as just going to the Locker – first they must go to Singapore and get a map from Captain Sao Feng. Shennanigans occur, but they succeed in obtaining the map. Then they go to rescue Jack – but none of them really know how to get back home once they find him. They figure that out just in time to reveal that everyone is, of course, trying to achieve their own objectives – Barbossa wants to call a gathering of the nine Pirate Lords so they can release ‘Calypso’, the Goddess of the Sea who was imprisoned by the first pirates into the body of a woman. She just happens to be the same woman that Davy Jones tore his heart out over, but that’s another story…

Anyway, no-one agrees on what the best course of action is to deal with the problem. The problem. Which is, in this film, the combined forces of Lord Cutler-Becket and Davy Jones, who are attempting to eradicate piracy. My head is swimming right now as I try to recall the other plot threads of this story, but believe me when I tell you that I’ve covered less than half of them here. So I’m going to stop.

It’s clear that the biggest problem this film has is the massive over-burdening of the plot. Dead Man’s Chest had a similar problem, but At World’s End dwarves its predecessor. At times it’s impossible to figure out what is going on – who is doing what, what side they’re on, what their motives are… and this is a bad thing.

The film makes up for this, but only just. In this installment, Jack has finally gone around the bend – he’s spent too much time under the sun in the Locker, and begins hallucinating clones of himself. This sounds awful, and indeed when I read about it before the film I thought it would be – but it’s actually hilarious, and a highlight of the film. When he sails his ship across the sand and runs into his ‘dead’ former-shipmate Barbossa, it’s easy to understand that he thinks he’s still hallucinating. “Alright Hector!” he greets him with a grin, much to the pirate’s annoyance.

More fun is to be found in the action scenes – which are plentiful, and in a way are the only solution to the convoluted plotlines. As things get more and more confusing, swords get drawn and a course of action is finally decided. The most exciting of these scenes can be glimpsed in the trailer, when the Goddess Calypso, finally freed, creates an enormous whirlpool in the middle of the ocean; the stage for the final battle between Jones’ Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl.

Jack’s witticisms are back of course, to a welcome reception. But Elizabeth Swann is overused, becoming pretty much the main character in this film – and Sao Feng, criminally, is entirely underused. These factors annoy, but they’re saved by the few short minutes of screentime given to the greatest pirate of all – Keith Richards. His grizzled turn as Jack’s father is, simply, brilliant – and just in case you don’t recognise him in pirate garb, he sits down to strum on a guitar.

As for the ending, well… I liked it, such as it is. But they’ve really left the doors wide open for a sequel, if they can convince everyone to go for another trip on the ride. That is a bad idea. But who am I kidding? When Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is invariably announced – assuming it has Depp and/or Rush in it, anyway – I’ll be first in line.

I think in time At World’s End will grow on me. As it is, it stands out as the most overwrought, plot-laden, fantastical movie in the Pirates trilogy. It makes Dead Man’s Chest (which, admittedly, I loved) look a lot better than I remember thinking it was when I first saw it. And neither of them are a patch on the first movie. But it is entertaining, and I suppose you can’t ask for more than that. And despite everything else, it does feel piratey.


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