A Treasure Chest of Fact, Fiction, and Folklore
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"
(aka, "Pirates of the Caribbean 3")
The third installment of this colorful series is great fun, humorous, adventurous, highly detailed, utterly fantastical, and contains characters and DGI effects second to none. So, is it good or is it bad? The only answer for that is... it's both. So, let's carp a bit in order to suss that out.
The first complaint is about the storylines which, in this final episode, brings together all the main characters: good guys and villains, some of whom are dead but still breathing because they're in some sort of "middle zone." Add to that enough clashing agendas to make Washington politics seem harmonious. The second carp is the length. How much better it might have been at 100 minutes instead of 168.
The hero that gives the series its heart and soul of whimsy and dark humor, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), as a result of his encounter with Kraken, has been killed and taken into enslavement by the malevolent Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). But Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Company has attained control of Jones and his ship, the Flying Dutchman, having entered into a treaty of sorts with evil.
The good Will Turner valiantly attempts to engage with Jones in order to free his father "Bootstrap" (Stellan Skarsgard) from his locker where he's in its grasp and slowly disintegrating into a component of it. But, to Turner, to the girl he pines for Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and to an ally through common purpose, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), renegade pirate captain of the Black Pearl it's apparent that they must defeat Jones, Beckett and his armada of warships.
To accomplish that task, they bring together the Nine Lords of the Brethren Court for a summit meeting at Shipwreck City in order to unite them for a common purpose. These highly independent and selfish warlord characters aren't prone to compromise and they show their base colors when they each vote for themselves to be king over the operation, making the sanctioning of a single leader all but impossible. Until Turner votes for Elizabeth. Her win doesn't go down well with the factions, but they move on -- with their own agendas securely in mind.
Essential to the task before them is the rescue of restless Cap'n Jack, for which objective they must entreat the Chinese pirate Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) for the necessary charts and ship to take them to world's end where they'll find Sparrow. Through the agency of the sea goddess Calypso, who has been locked in human form as Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), they find him, and a way to return him to the world of the living. With Sparrow back in fine fettle, and the goddess' continued help -- even if she's in love with Davy Jones (must be the tentacles... or his moral code?) -- they stand a chance against Beckett, but only if the countless betrayals slow down and if a modicum of trust can prevail for a few minutes.
The lashing and clashing of all this is a feat of endurance, action, dedication, more cuts than in a surgical ward, and a tremendous achievement by the hearty cgi team, shipmates all. Honor should be paid to everyone involved for focused dedication to all aboard for the long term commitment required. ("I wouldn't call it acting, I call it survival," says Orlando Bloom qouted in the press notes, mentioning the brutality of being wet from eight in the morning until eight at night.)
Alas, my theory of "thirds" applies, saying that by the time you reach a second sequel, the power, charm and excitement of the original usually has reached exhaustion. This episode, as finale, wraps up all the story strings that set sail in 2003 by director Gore Verbinski into a rocky shoal of complexity that calls for a chart to pilot you through it with a degree of understanding.
The great entertainment life raft to be found in these waters is the aura of mystery and adventure provided by a masterful technical crew: cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, production designer Rick Heinrichs, art directors John Deter and William Ladd Skinner, costume designers Liz Dann and Penny Rose, and others. Because of their artisty, you can "feel" the dripping ship textures and the whirling waters. You almost taste the sea air.
The score, which supports the epical quality of the film with sometimes magical themes and a few Asian motifs is by Hans Zimmer. Worth having.
The carps I've listed will be (and probably should be) ignored by devoted action fans, who will go well nourished by the explosive energy and multiple-camera detail. Depp's armada of loyal fans will revel in his irrepressible antics, swishy swordplay and best-line humor. But there's bound to be a horde of unforgiving landlubbers, also, who will consider it a shipwreck.
Knightley, similarly, lights up the screen and reminds us how we've missed that gorgeous face these last two years (since "Domino"). In her tight raiments she fights as though she were Joan of Arc, and reminds us of her slender, flat figure, which adds a note of doubt despite her spirited eagerness to convince us of sword-wielding prowess. Hmmm... not quite. She covered the physicality of such a part a little better as Guinevere in "King Arthur" of 2004.
All in all, there's no sea change here, but many an audience will have their action needs fulfilled on this voyage.
~~ Jules Brenner
2-DISC LIMITED EDITION BONUS FEATURES:
(This edition available for a limited time)