© 2007 Ray Wong
More is more. At least that's what Disney thinks when it comes to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Here, we have not one, not two, but more than a handful of heroes, and I lost count of the number of villains in this mega-blockbuster. You know you're going to get your money's worth.
Continuing where the second sequel left us, the film opens with a mass hanging scene in which Lord Culter Beckett (Tom Hollander) sends anyone suspected of being pirates to the gallows. The people begin to sing a pirate song, calling for the pirate lords. Thanks to Admiral Norrington (Jack Davenport), Beckett now possesses Davy Jones' (Bill Nighy) heart and thus control Jones and his men, and the sea.
Meanwhile, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) leads Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and the rest of the gang to Singapore to find Captain Sao Fen (Yun-Fat Chow). They need a ship and a crew to find Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is trapped inside Davy Jones' locker. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) has the chart to find him at world's end.
Once they find Sparrow, they must find a way to return to the world of the living, and answer the people's call. Of course, things are not as simple as they seem, as everyone has his or her own motive, and they would do anything to sabotage one another to achieve their own goals. At the end, they must bend together to fight Lord Beckett, or they risk extinction altogether.
The huge cast compete for screen time. Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) doesn't even appear until midway into the film. His Capt. Jack Sparrow is just as zany as before. Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice) and Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown) reprise their roles as the lovers torn apart by their ambitions. Geoffrey Rush (Munich) returns as a kinder, gentler Barbossa. Bill Nighy (Notes on a Scandal) has much less to do this time around, plagued by a subplot that involves Tia Dalma, played by Naomie Harris (Miami Vice).
Also reprising their roles are Jack Davenport (The Libertine) as Norrington, Tom Hollander (Pride & Prejudice) as Beckett, Jonathan Pryce (The Brothers Grimm) as Governor Swann, Kevin McNally (Scoop) as Gibbs, and Stellan Skarsgard (King Arthur) as "Bootstrap" Bill Turner. New to the cast is Hong Kong superstar Yun-Fat Chow (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) as fiendish Captain Sao Feng. Rocker Keith Richards has a ball playing Captain Teague, Jack Sparrow's father.
The writers, headed by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, return for round three. Many people considered the plot of Dead Man's Chest extremely convoluted; At World's End is no different. To summarize the plot: Someone betray someone else, and then they make amends, and then they betray one another again. That's pretty much it. They try to explain why the characters act certain ways and how things come to be -- but the explanations defy logic, even within the realm of high-concept fantasies. The huge cast of character leaves no room for solid character development -- they're only there to propel the plot from one action sequence to another.
Fortunately, under the old hands of director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Ring), the pace is fast enough so that the audiences don't have time to raise too many questions. The special effects are inconsistent, ranging from spectacular (the journey to Davy Jones' Locker, the climactic fight in the middle of a maelstrom) to underwhelming, even cheesy (for example, the reveal of Calypso, the Sea Goddess). The fight scenes are also very confusing, with a lot of close-ups and fast cutting -- it's very difficult to figure out what is going on.
In all fairness, Pirates of the Caribbean is pure popcorn. It's loud, fast, and mind-boggling. We must check our brains at the door in order to just let go and enjoy the film for what it is -- an amusement park ride. It's exciting, and it's crazy. At 168 minutes, however, the film is at least 30 minutes too long. They could have cut many extraneous parts (the scenes with Sao Feng, for example, really are not necessary), reduced the number of characters, and tightened the plot. If the movie is a roller-coaster ride, it's a long one that may make you sick at the end.
Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Yun-Fat Chow, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Kevin McNally, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgard
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writers: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Distributor: Buena Vista
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure and some frightening images
Running Time: 168 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 9
Total –6.9 out of 10