Like DEAD MAN’S CHEST, the conclusion of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN trilogy abandons everything that made CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL such a joy to watch: the clever twists, the witty dialogue, the wonderful interplay between the characters. Instead, we a get heavy-handed, tedious barrage of special effects and action scenes, loosely tied together by an aimless script in no hurry to get to the point, if any. The central premise, of pirates banding together in the fact of being hunted to extinction, is a good one, but the script squanders the idea, strangling it in a tangled of tattered plot threads.
The film seems dedicated to proving the theory that, once an audience is emotionally engaged with the characters, the filmmakers can serve up any nonsense they want and the viewers will swallow it whole. This is made most amusingly clear in the we-can-barely-be-bothered lip service explanation of why the dead Captain Barbossa could be easily brought back to life off-screen, while the dead Captain Jack Sparrow cannot (what it amounts to is: “We wouldn’t have a plot if we didn’t have the quest to rescued Jack from the land of the dead”).
The rest of the story works on a similar level, tossing in random bits and pieces, filling out the interminable running time with numerous pointless double- and triple-crosses until you just throw up your hands and give up, because you realize nothing really matters here except keeping this ship running for as long as possible.
The obvious inspiration is THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY (AT WORLD’S END even drives home the point by echoing Ennio Morricone’s score for that Italian Western). The difference is the director Sergio Leone kept the ,motivation for shifting alliances of his gunslingers clear (it was all based on greed); under Gore Verbinksi’s direction, on the other hand, the pirates jump from side to side as if the writers cannot figure out what to do and so just decided to do anything. Which would be bad enough in and of itself, but then the script has the nerve to pretend it is about making decisions and choosing sides. The result is tedious and flat.
With the heroes losing all definition, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom barely register; only Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa shines, taking on a more heroic, dashing cast. Keith Richard’s cameo is fun, but Kiera Knightley again raises the question of why anyone thinks she can shoulder a heavy acting burden. This time out, the plot asks her to fill the shoes of Chow Yun-Fat, whose Captain Sao Feng is killed off far too soon, leaving space for Knightley’s Elzabeth Swann to fill at the big pirate confab. The result is almost laughable – an empty vacuum of talent and screen presence that leaves us wishing Chow Yun-Fat had been given a role worthy of him, instead of being forced aside to make room for the leading lady.
As bloated and pointlessly elongated as the film is, there are times when it can barely be bothered to address what should be major issues. There is an almost dismissive shot of Elizabeth’s father, Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) riding a boat into the afterlife – a rather abrupt farewell to a major supporting character. Even more droll is the glimpse of the unkillable Kraken from the previous film, here seen without explanation, washed up dead on a beach.
Although theoretically wrapping up the trilogy, the ending of AT WORLD’S END (one of the film’s few good jokes, with Captain Jack pulling a fast one on Barbossa) leaves the door open for more sequels.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (May 2007). Directed by Gore Verbinkski. Written by Ted Elliott Terry Rossio, based on characters by Elliott & Rossio and Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert, inspired by the Disneyland theme park ride. Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook, Lee Arenberg, Kevin McNally, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Chow Yun-Fat.