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Should I Watch..? Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
What's the big deal?
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End is an action adventure fantasy film released in 2007 and is the third instalment of the Pirates Of The Caribbean series. Intended as the final film in the trilogy, this film is once again directed by Gore Verbinski and is a direct sequel to the previous film in the series, Dead Man's Chest (1). The film reunites cast members Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Keira Knightly once again as the fate of the pirating world rests on a final stand between the forces of good and evil. Filmed concurrently with Dead Man's Chest, the film was the most expensive to be made at the time which is a claim it lost to the belated fourth film On Stranger Tides (2) in 2011. Despite a mixed reaction when it was released, the film took more than $960 million at the global box office.
What's it about?
With the Flying Dutchman now under the control of Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company, Davy Jones is compelled to hunt down piracy wherever it lurks and destroy it. Facing extinction, the Pirate Lords convene to discuss what should be done but without Jack, no action can be taken. Therefore it falls to Will, Elizabeth and the resurrected Barbossa to find Jack in Davy Jones' Locker and bring him back to face the threat.
Sailing to Singapore, they meet up the Pirate Lord of the south China seas Sao Feng who knows how to sail to the ends of the earth and travel safely to the locker. But not far behind the Black Pearl is Jones aboard the Flying Dutchman and with alliances and friendships being tested to the fullest, can Jack return from the Locker and bring order to the chaos threatening their way of life?
Captain Jack Sparrow
Lord Cutler Beckett
William "Bootstrap Bill" Turner
Admiral James Norrington
Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio *
Release Date (UK)
24th May, 2007
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Academy Award Nominations
Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects
Worst Supporting Actor (Bloom)
What's to like?
Given the amount of money thrown at the picture, it shouldn't really surprise that At World's End looks the absolute business. With huge numbers of ships blasting each other with cannon-fire amid a swirling maelstrom, you do completely buy into the film. Costumes are equally fine with exquisite detailing to match the faultless sets behind the actors. And of course, the cast have themselves a whale of a time too.
Rush's glorious Barbossa is as equally over-the-top as Depp but he brings the same level of fun to the film that the previous film sorely missed. Depp's eccentricities are allowed to go completely off the wall - the scenes in Jones' Locker still defy an explanation - but he injects the film with as much good humour as he can. But other cast members get a bit more screen time as well - Knightly finally comes into her own as she is at long last given something to do while Nighy also gets the chance to show us the man behind the barnacles. The recipe hasn't actually changed that much despite the vast number of characters and imaginatively improbable action scenes. There are plenty of loose ends to tie up story-wise and it just about manages to bring the overall plot to a satisfying conclusion. And the film's scope is certainly vast enough to justify the excessive running time.
- This marks the first time in the entire series that Ragetti, Pintel and Barbossa have their names spoken in dialogue. Barbossa's first name, Hector, came about when Depp jokingly suggested it in the commentary for The Curse Of The Black Pearl (3).
- This is actually the fourth pirate movie Hans Zimmer has produced the score for as he worked on Muppet Treasure Island (4) in 1996.
- Keith Richards, who Depp cited as an influence for his performance as Jack, appears in a cameo as Jack's father. Turning up to shoot, Richards was so drunk that Verbinski had to prop him up. "If you wanted straight then you got the wrong man!" Richards told him.
What's not to like?
What I disliked about Dead Man's Chest was its resolute determination to be a darker vision of The Curse Of The Black Pearl which was bright, colourful and fun. Alas, this third film didn't listen to me and if anything, throws itself even further into the shadows. I don't recall a single moment when I smiled, except during the shark-jumping moment when Keith Richards shows up as Jack's father. Add to the darkness the utterly surreal scenes in the Locker itself which disrupts the film's flow and narrative completely. And that's a problem in a film with far too much narrative to include in its bloated running time.
It doesn't matter too much because you'll lose the thread of the film's plot fairly quickly and it's impossible to get it back. It feels as though everyone betrays everyone else at some point and the film quickly gets as murky as the fogs the Black Pearl sails through. Knightly's evolution from damsel in distress in the first film to pirate queen in At World's End feels as artificial as Davy Jones' beard while Bloom's goodie-two-shoes Will Turner seems overwhelmed by it all. I know how he feels - the film washes over you like a cold wave, making you shudder and shiver for a bit before hitting you again.
Other characters are even less welcome. Harris' voodoo princess Tia Dalma has an impenetrable accent so I had no idea what she was saying or why she was so important. And while Chow Yun-fat has an interesting character, he's not on screen for that long and judging by the comments of others, his appearance is somewhat reminiscent of half-forgotten film villain Fu Manchu. But quite simply, this film is a visually spectacular but ultimately confusing and bloated epic. Instead of sprinting for the line like a good trilogy finale should, it turns back and moonwalks lazily over the line, oblivious to the fact they've just lost the race.
Should I watch it?
It feels harsh to say it but only die-hard fans of the earlier films should really bother with this. It's way too confusing, too long, too full of characters who don't last long in the memory and only redeems itself with some quality visual work, the usually stirring soundtrack and Depp's increasingly strange performance. At World's End is a sad way for what had previously been such a great piece of escapism to draw to a close... except, it wasn't. No way were Disney going to accept the end of a story when there's money to be made.
Great For: fans of the first two films, CG animators
Not So Great For: anyone looking for something light-hearted, seasick sufferers, cynical viewers, young children
What else should I watch?
For sheer unadulterated fun, you won't find much better than the glorious first film in the series, The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Basking in Caribbean sunshine and launching Depp's assault on Disney merchandising as Jack Sparrow, the film has a real sense of fun that's as infectious as a fit of giggles from a new-born baby. It's this fun that's missing from both Dead Man's Chest and At World's End especially. On Stranger Tides works hard at injecting some humour but it falls a bit flat and there are some notable omissions from the cast.
Few trilogies make it to the end without some dip in form but Peter Jackson's sublime adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings (5) is possibly the exception to the rule. Having only seen the opening film to his follow-up trilogy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (6), I will say that it is a definite drop in form but if all you're looking for is a fabulous looking, energetic fantasy adventure than Jackson's Middle-Earth forays are as good as you'll find.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox