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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

What has bothered me most throughout this trilogy, now spanning eight hours worth of swashbuckling mayhem, is how the series has completely ignored why pirates decide to become pirates: the opportunity for ill-gotten plunder, the chance at a legendary treasure, the freaking thrill of an adventure on the high seas.

Fans of this trilogy who will most certainly eat up the third chapter of this franchise might wonder what the hell I’m talking about. After all, Pirates is nothing but adventure and thrills. You see guys, they aren’t my kind of thrills. I want to see pirates searching for something that they hope will make them rich. I want to see treasure maps and Indiana Jones-style lairs and traps. I want to see Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) actually command a ship (which, sorry, you won’t see here).

But Pirates of the Caribbean has always been steadfast about what these pirates are looking for: usually, a way to cheat death, or to come back from the dead. Something involving love and loss and curses. This might be okay if screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, along with director Gore Verbinski, ever wanted to plot out a suspenseful trek into the unknown, or made any of these flirtations with death seem in the least dangerous: When we first see Jack Sparrow, he’s in Davy Jones’ Locker, which apparently you can get to by boat and is just a barren desert extending into a beach. Lame.

Yes, just like the last chapter, our heroes Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are trying to save the eccentric captain. At least this time, the rescue makes some sense, unlike Dead Man’s Chest which was just a waste of time. They’ve got Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, a welcome return) back from the dead helping them out, with superior navigational maps courtesy of Chinese scallywag Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat). They need Sparrow because the “pirate lords” need to get together and figure out what they’re going to do about Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander), who has been killing pirates and those who associate with pirates, while also hoping to profit off pirates.

Parallel to this story is Turner’s hope to rescue his father (Stellan Skarsgard) from Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who has been derelict in his duties in caring for the dead (hence the squid-face and the sea-creature-esque crew) because of his lost love. Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) knows a thing or two about Jones’s heart, which, if stabbed, will make the stabber the captain for life of Jones’s Flying Dutchman.

I wrote at the beginning of this review about the lack of suspense. Here’s an example: When trying to find Davy Jones’ Locker, Barbossa makes mention that getting there is easy (it is?), it’s getting back that’s hard. Well, although the getting back is one of the more amusing parts of the film, it doesn’t make much sense, and figured out all too easily. We could have seen some really freaky stuff in Davy Jones’ Locker, but no one is interested in showing us.

And then, the lament of Davy Jones’ lost love…built up as an epic romance by the second film, is completely shattered by this one. This important aspect to his character seems moot when you see what the filmmakers have in store, although I do like what they do with Swann and Turner towards the end. I think the whole series was built up so there could be lots of sword fights. I can’t get into this stuff. Empty action. No real adventure. Make me clutch my seat in anticipation just once, rather than yawning through the clink-clink of more rapier combat.

This is better than the second film. That’s not high praise from me. Go ahead, make this the number one film with the best weekend ever (topping a three-week old record). This is your bottle of rum. If the art of review is to say a movie is a masterpiece when the filmmakers set out to accomplish something, and they do what they set out to do, then Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End is that. I think the parameters are too narrow, however. Give me some real pirates.

Follows: POTC: Dead Man’s Chest

Next: POTC: On Stranger Tides


Comment from KW
Time: May 25, 2007, 10:38 am

I think for “real pirates” you’d have to watch something epic like… Cutthroat Island.

Wait…no… I meant Muppet Treasure Island (”one leg, Jim. Count ‘em… one.”).

Comment from Jonathan
Time: May 25, 2007, 6:28 pm

I freaking love “Muppets Treasure Island.” My favorite part is the rat in the hawaiaan shirt with the two chicks: “You got booze on the shuffleboard court.”

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