of the Caribbean:
At World's End
When a ship gets too heavy, its crew jettisons
all the unnecessaries in order to lighten things and speed
them up. Unfortunately for Pirates of the Caribbean:
At World's End, by this time no two people can agree
on what the unnecessaries are. Only one thing's for sure:
Director Gore Verbinski is perfectly content to just let
things drift along. The Black Pearl will reach its destination
the first film
did drift a bit, it at least had a straightforward plot.
The only things twisting and turning at the drop of a hat
were Johnny Depp's torso and limbs. Especially at the drop
of a hat, as At World's End belatedly reminds us.
in the effort to make that one-off a bona fide trilogy,
screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio brought everything
back and soaked it with meaning. Rather than slow down Dead
Man's Chest, however, the narrative careened wildly
along, allowing little time for each new revelation to register.
You just had to hang on tight and hope you didn't get swept
They were also building the script around
some spectacular sequences that Verbinski was determined
to shoot. It doesn't seem that he was so inspired here.
Instead, the script does its best to introduce
new adventure while wading through the muck the last movie
left lying around. By introducing the dread pirate Sao Feng
(Chow Yun-Fat), the film offers hope. He's sleazy, steamy
and more than a match for Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa.
The two stare each other down while the
Black Pearl's crew try to sneak through, and Verbinski turns
this into a tremendous action-filled beginning, especially
if you believe that monkeys are like cheese. They make everything
Soon enough, though, things have to slow
down for a contest between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley
to see who can look more soulful, and who can make us care
less. The script meanders as everyone tries to figure out
if you can have pirate cake and eat it, too. Elliott and
Rossio accidentally gave Bloom's Will Turner a goal that
runs at cross-purposes to Elizabeth's, and the story keeps
trying to shake it off, hoping no one will notice.
As soon as either character's arc starts
to pick up speed, they have to stop and gaze longingly,
as if to remind us that they're supposed to be great cinematic
lovers. Forget that - one of the things George Lucas did
write was throw out the noble but ultimately boring Luke
Skywalker and position the roguish Han Solo for Princess
Leia. The same thing should happen here - we want Jack Sparrow
to get the girl, if he wants her.
But first he must be rescued in order to
help Will and Elizabeth fight Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander)
and his East India Trading Company. Except that even that
can't be as it seems. Not only does Barbossa have some other
plot suddenly going on with the enigmatic Tia Dalma (Naomie
Harris), which entwines with Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) who
has entwined with both Will and Jack who has some connection
to Beckett …oh, crap, it does get a bit confusing.
Yet that isn't the problem. At World's
End has a dense plot, yes, but if it were a novel, it
would be easy to praise. It's just that curious lack of
energy that Verbinski brings. At one point, he even stops
things dead for the visit to "Davy Jones' Locker." Things
halt so screechingly, for a moment it seems like they tacked
a reel on from another film.
It would be easy to say that part of the
problem comes from a half-hearted attempt at a theme of
the old world ending. Certainly, Sparrow and Barbossa do
some verbal sparring about the passing of an age. They should
be headed towards a rousing last stand against civilization,
but again a twist too many makes it hard to keep track of
The film also has some mumbo jumbo about
freedom versus order, and obviously, in a movie about pirates,
we're rooting against the traditional heroes. But At
World's End has an opening making unpleasant comparisons
to our current state of affairs in the United States - and
that opening ends with the hanging of a child. It's really
hard to warm up after that.
Beckett also spends time muttering about
things being "…just good business." So maybe we are to take
away that standard capitalism is bad, even as we buy all
our ancillary Pirates merchandise. We'll be suckered
into a fourth film, for sure, because that old world really
can't fade away as long as we'll pay to see it.
So we're left with sound and fury. When
the action focuses on favorite elements, we can be pleased.
The problem for a ship this big is simply that we don't
all like the same things. If Disney had been more honest
and been willing to just admit to a fourth film earlier
on, they could have saved some for later.
If the fourth trims some fat, or takes the bloom off a bit,
we could get back to what made this all work for us in the
first place. Hello…pirates…