Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Review
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It’s no secret that I was seriously disappointed by last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. In fact, one might even say that I was so disappointed that it made me angry. So it was with great trepidation that I went to see the third movie in the series. It didn’t help, either, that the rumors abounded in film circles—rumors about drunken guest stars (though, if you ask me, it’s not fair to expect Keith Richards to be sober) and last-minute script-writing and production insanity. How in the world, I wondered, could At World’s End be anything but an expensive catastrophe?

But, to my surprise, Pirates 3 is actually a major improvement on Pirates 2 That’s not to say, though, that Pirates 3 isn’t as needlessly complex as last year’s mess. Before I attended the screening, I received a letter, asking me not to reveal the crucial plot resolutions, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do that—even if I wanted to—because I’m still not entirely sure what happened. There are so many plot lines that, if you really want to know what happens, you’ll have to take copious notes—and even then, it doesn’t all work. But here’s the gist of it: Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Will (Orlando Bloom), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and company begin the film on a mission to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones’s Locker. All have their own reasons. Elizabeth feels guilty for sending him there in the first place. Will doesn’t care about Jack, but he needs Jack’s ship, the Black Pearl, so he can rescue his father (Stellan Skarsgård) from Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). And Barbossa needs Jack because he’s one of the world’s nine pirate lords, and he’s needed in order to call a meeting of the Brethren Court. The East India Trading Company, under the command of Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), is threatening to destroy their way of life—and the pirate lords need to gather to decide what to do about it. Along the way, there are all kinds of secret alliances made and all kinds of backstabbing and betrayal, resulting in all kinds of sea battles and swordfights.

Now, I can’t say for sure if the rumors are true—that the writers scrambled to finish the script long after filming had already begun. But I can say this: it feels like that’s what happened. It feels like a story that a couple of kids make up on the spot as they act it out for the rest of the neighborhood. It starts out simple enough, but then they add extra stories (“Okay…now there’s this thing about the goddess Calypso.”) and new rules (“And then…if you stab Davy Jones’s heart, you have to take over his job.”) until no one can follow it anymore. Had there been a final script from the beginning, I think the story would have been a lot simpler (and the movie would have been a lot shorter).

But now the good news. First (and perhaps most importantly), the Jack Sparrow I fell in love with in the original Pirates is back. Gone is the ridiculously slapstick kluzty rodeo clown of Pirates 2. This time, he’s toned down—back to the entertainingly quirky yet cool character that adds humor to the story without channeling The Three Stooges. And, for that, I am grateful. In fact, all of the main characters are strong this time around. Bloom’s Will may be a bit conflicted, but at least he’s tough about it. And Knightley’s Elizabeth is the ultimate female character—one who could take on whiny Mary Jane Watson any day of the week.

And then there’s the action. While there’s a lot going on, director Gore Verbinski didn’t make the mistake of letting the complicated story get too much in the way of the cool pirate stuff. Pirates 3 is loaded with thrilling action and stunning effects—lots of sword fighting and sea battles and booming cannons. And, when it comes down to it, that’s why so many people keep coming back. That’s what makes nearly three hours fly by. It’s also what makes Pirates 3 more fun than Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is far from perfect. The story is just plain confusing—and if you try too hard to follow along (like us film critics, who need to know enough to go back to our computers and write about it), you’ll definitely give yourself a killer headache. But if you’re willing to let go of the story—and not worry too much about what’s going on or who’s secretly working with whom or what’s the deal with Davy Jones—you’ll love this swash-bucklingly thrilling pirate adventure.

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