The concluding part to the original trilogy of fantasy/adventure films( though two other sequels would inevitably follow), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is rousing but at times a very mixed bag. It’s very fun and has sublime action, it just gets a tad sidetracked with wrapping up many plot points. Still, it boasts quite an entertaining spectacle from Disney and I love it for that and how epic it feels.
The very existence of pirates is under attack from the evil and power mad Lord Cutler Beckett( Tom Hollander) . He has begun executing anyone associated with piracy, in the hope it’ll bring out the prominent members of pirate world out into full view for him. As his power grows, mainly due to him having control over the fearsome Davy Jones( Bill Nighy) after coming into possession of his cut out heart, pirates must form unlikely alliances to survive. In Singapore, Elizabeth Swann(Keira Knightley), the resurrected Barbossa(Geoffrey Rush) , Will Turner(Orlando Bloom), Tia Dalma(Naomie Harris) and others loyal to Jack Sparrow(Johnny Depp), arrive to meet with the famed yet shifty pirate lord named Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat). He possesses a navigational chart to the Locker, but being a crafty pirate he isn’t just going to give it over that easily. After their meeting is ambushed by The East India Trading Company and Navy, Sao Feng sends his crew along with the rescue group for Jack as he is prone to going with whoever benefits him and going whichever way the wind blows. The group need Jack in order to have someone who is part of the Pirate Brethren and can make a decision regarding the next course of action against Beckett and the fleet he owns. Each has a motive for wanting Jack’s return, particularly Elizabeth who feels guilty for her part in his imprisonment and Will who has plans that are personal to him . Will saw Elizabeth kissing Jack before his demise and didn’t understand that is was her distracting him. This is put a wedge between the lovebirds that both hope to overcome. Along the way, backstabbing occurs as loyalties shift and people attempt to survive the oncoming fight for their very lives. Journeying from Singapore to literally off the edge of the world, the real tag crew finally find Jack in Davy Jones Locker. After much tribulation in an attempt to return to the normal world , now with a reluctant Jack, things seem to be on an even keel . But it’s not going to be plain sailing for them all, far from it. Elizabeth discovers her father Governor Swann( Jonathan Pryce) was murdered by and this ignites more action inside of her, we witness how she’s more than happy to go against the grain now and take charge in fierce fashion when it gets personal. Will wants to rescue his cursed father Bootstrap Bill(Stellan Skarsgård) from damned life on the Flying Dutchman . The only catch is that he must stab the heart but then become the captain of the vessel. This would mean he would be parted from his beloved Elizabeth and only every ten years for one day would he be allowed to see her is still mourning the goddess Calypso, who he loved and when she didn’t return to him, he became the monster he is at present . We learn that Calypso was bound to human form and that form is the ever enigmatic Tia Dalma , who has an axe to grind with the Brethren . Will has to align himself with the slimy Beckett to enable some of his plan to work while Elizabeth ends up with more responsibility than ever. Upon reaching where they need to be , opinions are raised about the future. It’s up to the to fight back against its enemies and though many present have differing motives and ideals, uneasy but needed unions are made as the time for fighting grows closer. Soon battle lines are drawn and it’s a battle that no one is going to forget.
Gore Verbinski still knows how to create a swashbuckler and succeeds in the stakes of action, adventure and fantasy. He has the right gusto to keep things spinning, even if the multitude of plot points is a chore. From doing my research, I saw that At World’s End was filmed back to back with its predecessor and you get the feeling more effort was lavished on Dead Man’s Chest than here . Which isn’t to say that the film is bad, it just can lack focus with all the varying strands it has to contend with and exposition runs heavily throughout. In the last two movies, I have mentioned the run times being a bit long. But here it really does feel overlong and sometimes needs an injection of something to get it going. It’s not hard to feel a bit confused with all the subterfuge at play and the plot points that need tying up getting drawn out. These areas tie the movie up in knots that derail some of the good that it has to offer. Mercifully, when the action and spectacle hit in At World’s Enf, they knock it out of the park in powerful fashion. The last hour or so is an onslaught of breathless action between ships in a stormy sea as the final battle takes place in grandiose style, following a rallying speech from the now fully fledged pirate Elizabeth . Water soaks, sails break and swords clash as the fight for freedom. And it’s pretty spectacularly mounted and executing from near every angle. It’s what the audience has been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint. Earlier standout moments include the rousing rendition of a call to arms from those about to be put to death, the trippy purgatory of Davy Jones Locker , the rag tag crew slipping a boat over to escape the land of the dead and an extended battle in Singapore on wooden bridges over waterways. And that’s not forgetting the visual front of sweeping camerawork that captures many a cinematic moment, like the as two faction walk towards the other with equal intensity in their eyes that feels like a tribute to an old Western in the best possible way. The sets are gorgeously rendered and we have Hans Zimmer on music duties once more; crafting a suitably epic score that continues to build as the action explodes.
Johnny Depp headlines this end to the original trilogy with usual blend of outrageous comedy styling and moments of occasional seriousness. Jack is wily and up to his usual tricks but we see that he can loyal in his own roundabout way. Knockabout humour and action go hand in hand for Depp in his finely energetic performance that once more makes it mark as memorable. Orlando Bloom has come a longboard way from the start and it’s great to see him play the ruthless and cunning yet still charming Will. Gone are the overly saintly antics of the first chapters of the character, and we have Bloom playing Will as someone who engages in piracy with efficiency and verve but still has shreds of integrity and selflessness to him. Keira Knightley impresses once more as Elizabeth becomes a fully fledged pirate once she realises that she has nothing left to lose following the murder of her father . She’s vengeful, spirited and knows how to cut anyone down with either words or sword. Knightley is a winner once more in how she’s portrayed Elizabeth throughout the trilogy; her emergence from well brought up lady to skilled, respected pirate is one hell of a journey thanks to the delightful young actress. And who else could look so fetching in pirate garb and command such deep respect from those around her like Knightley? Say what you will about some of the plotting in the trilogy, but the development of Will and Elizabeth has been a shining factor and hugely positive in the course of the three movies. Geoffrey Rush is back and as wickedly entertaining as ever, playing Barbossa with a glint in his eyes and spitting out amusing one liners whenever the occasion calls for it. Stellan Skarsgård, who I’ve aways found to be a really underrated actor, wrings out the sadness from his part of doomed father and damned man. There’s something in his eyes that just really evokes a feeling of pity. Nighy makes for both a terrifying prospect and a tormented man, ably supporting Naomie Harris as the enigmatic long lost love. Once we become privy to the knowledge of the history between these two, their story takes on more pathos that is thankfully a good plot thread that interests. Tom Hollander continues to grease it up as the skippering Beckett, a little man with big ideas who is quite the loathsome cockroach that many characters wish to kill. A wasted opportunity comes in the form of Chow Yun-Fat. He’s a commanding actor and has an elegance to him, but its not put to good enough use here which is most unfortunate. More successful is the stalwart Kevin McNally as the noble friend to all and the one who is the most approachable amid all the larger than life characters. They aren’t the favourite characters of everyone, Pintel and Ragetti(Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook) that is, and but their buffoonery and blunders of quite entertaining when I see them. Some of it wears thin but they are clearly having a blast. Jack Davenport appears again as the Commodore who switches loyalties, and he successfully plays someone who grows a spine a little too late. Jonathan Pryce is sadly sidelined for his part, though the unexpected death of his character certainly sets in motion something within Elizabeth. Watch out for the much publicised cameo by Keith Richards as Jack’s pirate father( with added tongue in cheek humour as Depp based the part he plays on Richards himself)
So if it goes on too long and feels just a bit too convoluted, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End can at least be praised for its acting, action and pure sense of escapism. After all, it’s a fun filled time for most of it that can prove worthy of your patience and viewership. And it caps off the trilogy in style so I can’t begrudge it that.