May 29, 2007 > Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Film Review
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Film Review
By Jeremy Inman
Disney's powerhouse PIRATES series is back with a third and presumably final installment: AT WORLD'S END. This time around, we find clever Captain Jack taken by the monstrous Kraken to the depths of Davy Jones' Locker - a sort of purgatory state in which Jack's fragmented psyche has fallen pray to a number of psychoses...on top of the ones we've previously come to love him for. It's up to Elizabeth Swann, Will Turner, and the dubious Captain Barbossa to free Jack from this fate.
Well, good luck figuring it out.
Apparently, Jack is one of nine members of a pirate cabal called the Brethren Court, whose presence is required to unleash the power of Calypso, goddess of the sea, to aid the Court in their battle against Lord Cutler Beckett and the East India Trading Company. This is the crux of the plot for WORLD'S END, though thoroughly cloaked in an exorbitant number of treacherous side stories and interwoven betrayals. The number of double, triple, and quadruple crosses in this film is overwhelming. The audience is never quite sure of who is the bad guy other than the always-sneaky Lord Beckett. Every single character has a motive opposing the intentions of somebody else. Though an argument can be made that conflict breeds character, PIRATES goes the distance to prove that conflict can just as easily obscure it. My opinion is that they're all bad guys, but that's just the nature of pirates...sneaky, sneaky pirates.
That having been said, this film is still an entertaining viewing experience. WORLD'S END is a much more apparent departure from the first film, CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL than its sequel, DEAD MAN'S CHEST. No longer is PIRATES a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure flick. This darker take on the series may lose its appeal to younger audiences. Some of these faces may contort in confusion (I heard, "who's that guy?" more than a few times) or into a visage of pure terror (one poor young gent next to me had to cover his eyes while the monstrous Davy Jones dispatched an enemy using his hideous tentacles). In this regard, WORLD'S END comes ever so close to crossing the boundary to full-fledged drama if not for the continued bumbling antics of Johnny Depp's masterfully played Captain Jack Sparrow.
Sparrow's presence as well as his aloof and nonsensical approach to problems, causes the characters around him to adopt the same mindset. In this manner, the film endeavors to maintain its lightheartedness. The drawback is that, in contrast, scenes without him appear relatively dark. Despite the power of Depp's performance, he plays second fiddle to Geoffrey Rush's Captain Barbossa. Rush has captured the essence of pirate-ness more adequately than any performer I can recall in recent history. It was a good choice for his character to play a far more significant role in the third installment. The only other notable performance came from Bill Nighy as the almost-tragic Davy Jones, whose powerful voice and accent command attention. His intricately developed mannerisms supply him with a very high degree of believability, despite the dozen or so tentacles hanging from his face.
All in all, I would say that Disney is proving that what is good for a studio isn't necessarily good for audiences. More and more, we see single films stretched into trilogies to triple the bottom line. But what the franchise makes in revenue, it loses in narrative longevity. I'm thinking of THE MATRIX sequels among others. The second and third PIRATES films, roughly 3 hours each, could easily have been one, much more concise, sequel. Each sequel spends the first half of its narrative desperately trying to help the audience navigate a chain of betrayals which inevitably lead to the final hour. The remainder is filled with the same jokes and bits that were funny and refreshing in the first film, but have, by now, lost their charm...in other words, more of the same.
At least PIRATES repeats only the good stuff, and does not stray too far from the original (I'm looking at you, MATRIX!). However, it is difficult to avoid feeling the influence of marketing executives. Still, it's hard for me to be tough on this film. The characters work, the story is sufficient, and the humor is definitely present. With so much going for it, we can forgive the PIRATES franchise for one or two missteps when the overall presentation is still above the caliber of most films of the same genre. Savvy?