A somewhat deflated Captain Barbossa, "There was a time when a pirate was free to make his own way in the
world. But our time is comin' to an end." Such is the dilemma that faces our beloved pirates in the third
installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" saga. A fate beset by Lord Cutler Beckett, who now controls
Davy Jones' heart, and sets forth on a mission to rule the seas and wipe out each and every pirate. Summoning
up the Pirate Lords from the four corners of the globe, Captain Jack, Barbossa, Will, Elizabeth, and crew are
determined to make one final stand - "At World's End." The third and final installment, "At World's End"
re-teams the successful duo of Verbinski and Bruckheimer and infuses the same verve and vigor into characters
and situations that made the previous outings entertaining. But it also infuses an enormous amount of overhead -
detail and complexity that detracts from the film's primal pirate purpose. Bland, bloated, and at times,
bewildering, this third serving is merely yo-ho-hum.
It's not easy being a pirate. Particularly with Lord Beckett conducting mass executions of everyone and anyone
associated with piracy. Even children. No one and no place is safe, including the comfy confines of the sea,
where Beckett, Dead Man's Chest in hand, actively employs Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman to destroy all pirate
ships and anyone who gets in the way. In an effort to thwart Beckett's plans, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, and
Captain Barbossa join forces and go about summoning the leaders of the pirate world - the Nine Lords of the Brethren
Court. For the pirate community, it's the only hope for survival.
Ah, but there's a catch. Captain Jack Sparrow, one of the Nine Brethren, failed to appoint a successor before being
tucked away in Davy Jones' Locker. And without Sparrow, the Brethren cannot rightfully meet. To get to Sparrow, one
must journey to World's End, the gateway to Davy Jones' Locker. And Will, Elizabeth, Barbossa, and crew infiltrate the
lair of Singapore's Sao Feng, possessor of the World's End map. After a successful barter with Feng is broken up by a
Beckett surprise attack, the heroes journey through raging seas and waterfalls to rescue Jack, actively pursued by the
Flying Dutchman and Beckett's armada. Once rescued, the Brethren meet, but only after realizing they may need a little
more than Pirate Law to stand up to Beckett and pre-empt the end of an era - the glorious Age of Piracy.
"At World's End" represents the climactic 'end' to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" saga, a second spoonful
of what has become a Hollywood obsession - taking a successful original film and turning it into a
franchise. But unlike other questionable films that spawn trilogies, the box office numbers for "Pirates"
are hard to argue against. The original grossed over $650 million worldwide while the second, "Dead Man's
Chest," earned more than $1 billion internationally and took third position for top grossing films of all
time, only to stand behind "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." In fact, "Dead
Man's Chest" was even bestowed with four Oscar nominations, winning the Best Visual Effects prize at last
But prior successes don't necessarily equate to future successes. And box office receipts don't necessarily
signify quality motion pictures. Following in "The Lord of the Rings" tradition, "Dead Man's Chest" and "At
World's End" were filmed back to back, oftentimes simultaneously. The end result is a confusing, bloated
bounty as "At World's End" began filming without a finished script and wound up over 3 hours long for its
initial cut. Even though the final cut comes in a bit shorter at 168 minutes, it still seems overlong and
rift with all kinds of plot problems.
For starters, there's just way too much to decrypt for a popcorn movie. Characters dying and returning to life, strange
and conflicting pirate laws, hallucinations and magic, and mythical legends and beasts. All of this occurs, and yet,
the film still manages to squeak in a quick rum shortage, a few ship battles, and an occasional romantic
entanglement. But it begs the question: What ever happened to plain o'l looting and pillaging?
Granted, "At World's End" is a spectacle to behold. Returning for thirds is director Gore Verbinski, who knows how to
balance the thrills and chills, going all out with stunts and special effects to transport viewers into a world well
beyond the amusement park. Visually stunning, "At World's End" highlights include the immersion and re-emergence of
the Black Pearl, the transformation of Calypso several stories high, a battle with Beckett's armada amidst an ominous
storm, and the humorous depiction of Captain Jack a la multiplicity.
Yes, Johnny Depp is back in gloriously eccentric form along with the always convincing and charismatic
Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa. And who could forget Keith Richard's short and eagerly anticipated appearance
as Jack's father? There's even a very moving man-behind-the-mask moment with Bill Nighy as Davy
Jones. Unfortunately, however, the rest of the cast gets washed out, wallowing away in self-doubt and
misguided purpose. Not to mention, a mouthful of pirate dialogue and code that would take repeat viewings
Most disappointing are the characters of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. What made them so fascinating to
watch in the original installment was their sense of righteousness, their chivalry, and their romantic
yearning opposite chaotic pirates like Sparrow and Barbossa. In a manner of speaking, it was swashbuckling
fun. But here, they've become too much like pirates themselves, shifting loyalties, taking lives, and
pursuing their own selfish agendas. And their so-called romance comes to an abrupt conclusion, as befuddled
and laughable as the moment they decide to exchange vows.
Overall, "At World's End" is an entertaining, yet elongated voyage. While it's hard not to be mesmerized by
the star power and the fantastic effects, it is disappointing how the film obsesses about its storyline at
the expense of everything else. The humor and the character traits are aplenty, but the writers seem to
have taken the joy out of pirate-hood, inundating the film with laborious dialogue, twisted subplots, and
disenfranchising many of the core characters. Save for Captain Jack's comedic shenanigans, it's enough to
turn one savvy seadog into a mutinous scallywag. "Yo-ho, yo-ho, a bounty-less pirate film indeed."