"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," filmed in tandem with 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
," is touting itself as the final part in a trilogy that started with 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
." What began as almost a jokethe movies are, after all, based on a theme park ride at Disney Worldhas become an explosively successful franchise. To believe that this will be the last time audiences see oily, rum-soaked pirate Jack Sparrow is an impossibility. One can always hope, though. Director Gore Verbinski (2005's "The Weather Man
") might have lucked into a huge moneymaker that captured the attention of audiences of all ages, but as proven by this misbegotten series, financial accolades do not exactly equate to cinematic worth.
Bloated beyond comprehension, overplotted to the point of aggravation, and about as soulless as a ship captain specter, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" is a total mess. Giving summer tentpoles a bad name, the film comes complete with some nice visual effects work at the service of a ludicrously complicated hodgepodge of a story and unsavory, one-note characters whose charms have long since run their course. Watching the movie is like being afflicted with amnesia every fifteen minutesthe empty images, cornball dialogue and plodding action set-pieces go through the eyes and are zapped by a brain synapse that has no interest or reason to care about anything happening on the screen. By the end, one has only a vague memory of what they have just seen, and that's more than enough.
Picking up where the last picture left off, sparring lovebirds Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), newly reanimated Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and voodoo priestess Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) have set off to save the life of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who last we saw was swallowed up by the Kraken and is now trapped in a netherworld. Following a stop in Singapore to retrieve a special map from Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), the gang take to the seas, en route to the literal ends of the world. This daring mission is only the beginning of their new quest as they next set their sights on the Flying Dutchman
, the ship of cursed, tentacle-faced Davey Jones (Bill Nighy). It seems that the devious Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) has taken Davey's heart, using it against him in order to form a critical alliance that will aid him in ruling the seas and slaughtering the whole pirate population.
The plot continues from there, but really, what's the point? Even at an exposition-heavy running time that tops out just under three hours, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" doesn't make a lick of sense. Following a promising opening forty-five minutes that document the initial voyage to save Jack Sparrow and conclude with a nifty sequence in which the passengers of the Black Pearl
intentionally capsize the ship in an attempt to return to the world of the living, the film's momentum stops dead in its tracks. The next ninety minutes are almost entirely dedicated to scene after scene after endless scene of characters standing around, trying to explain the plot and their individual motives to each other. Convoluted in the extreme and seemingly making up the narrative as they go, director Gore Verbinski and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have no idea how to compile all their ideas and all their countless arbitrary side stories into a workable form. The finished product lacks energy, inspiration, and most of all, focus.
At this point, the recurring actors have exhausted the limited capacities of their characters and are just going through the motions, the weary looks of exhaustion and boredom unmistakable on their faces. As Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp (2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
") is, for the first time, underused. On sparse occasions, he knocks a one-liner or facial expression out of the park, but otherwise fades into the background to make room for the assortment of other characters.
As on-again-off-again romantic partners Elizabeth and Will, Keira Knightley (2005's "Domino
") isn't half as sparkling as she was in the first "Pirates" endeavor and Orlando Bloom (2005's "Elizabethtown
") continues to do his best impression of a piece of wood. The love story between these two is a joke; they share no chemistry, are dishonest and selfish, and barely seem to tolerate each other. If any performer stands out, it is easily Geoffrey Rush (2005's "Munich
"), deliciously self-deprecating as the "arrrgh"-spouting Captain Barbossa. His and Jack Sparrow's ongoing rivalry is cause for some humorous bits in the first half.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" is a study in detached tedium. Just as the climactic battle at sea appears to be getting into high gear, another thirty minutes of back-and-forth chatting takes precedence that, as far as I can tell, could have been chopped out with close to no bearing on what proceeds it. When the action finale arrives, full of cannonball-shooting and sword-fighting amidst a stormy whirlpool, the viewer has long since mentally checked out, beaten into submission by a hokey, needlessly ponderous script that doesn't know when to quit. It's all flash and fury and zero substance, and the very fact that anyone can miraculously spring back to life after they have died strips it of suspense and meaning. If this does turn out to be series finale, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" ends with a pitiful whimper. Good riddance.