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"Bland, bloated, and at times, bewildering, this third serving is merely yo-ho-hum."
"The writers seem to have taken the joy out of pirate-hood"
"An entertaining, yet elongated voyage."
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End  

Cast

Captain Jack Sparrow: Johnny Depp
Will Turner: Orlando Bloom
Elizabeth Swann: Keira Knightley
Barbossa: Geoffrey Rush
Davy Jones: Bill Nighy
Sao Feng: Chow Yun-Fat
Review May 2007

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 year's ceremonies.

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 to decipher.

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."



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