Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Premise: The third chapter in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) pair with the recently resurrected Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones’ Locker while British Lord Becket (Tom Hollander) begins a campaign to rid the seas of all pirates.
What Works: At World’s End intends to be a big, loud, special effects extravaganza and it accomplishes that. There are a number of set pieces and sequences that are visually stunning and the special effects are first rate. The previous film, Dead Man’s Chest, used a cliffhanger ending familiar to middle chapters of trilogies like The Empire Strikes Back and The Matrix Reloaded, stranding one of the heroes and requiring that the others rescue him in the beginning of the third installment. The rescue is done better in this film than it is in some others because it resolves some character relationships along the way, namely Will and Elizabeth’s troubled romance, and changes Captain Jack into an even more insane version of himself.
What Doesn’t: This Pirates of the Caribbean leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest problem by far is the lack of humor that made the first two installments so much fun. Captain Jack is absent from much of the film and without him the film drags. His absence reveals how much the first two films benefited from Johnny Depp’s performance. Even when he is on screen, Captain Jack seems more restrained, and the character’s change after being rescued from the other side makes him less interesting to watch. On the whole, the film is desperate to do something bold with its characters but none of the characters come to life the way they did in the first two installments and the actors seem more like they are going through the motions. Even Geoffrey Rush, whose performance in the original film was a great maniacal counterpoint to Depp, is restrained and far less watchable. At World’s End tries to overcome third chapter fatigue by having the characters erratically make and break alliances, double and triple crossing each other. While this is interesting thematically, as the characters face some serious ethical problems, it is confusing to watch and the storytelling is not handled very well. For instance, the story leaves the reason for Barbossa’s resurrection and his relationship to the mysterious Calypso (Naomie Harris) unexplained. Calypso’s storyline and her relationship to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) is actually quite interesting but it does not go anywhere and is ultimately dropped in opening of the third act. The romance between Will and Elizabeth is finally given some story development after a disappointingly underwritten treatment in Dead Man’s Chest, but when that finally comes it’s too little, too late. By the time the climax arrives, the film is a bloated collection of muddled character relationships compensated by stunts and special effects that have no dramatic weight.
Bottom Line: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a disappointing ending to what was an impressive franchise. The film simply isn’t very much fun and is more confusing than engaging. The real lesson of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise may be that some films are better left as a single installment.
Note: Like the previous films, stay tuned after the end credits for a small clip.
Episode: #144 (June 10, 2007)