Sunday, June 10, 2007

Movie Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgard, Chow Yun-Fat, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce
Directed by Gore Verbinski

Official Web site

Well, if you thought the last adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow and Co. was overly stuffed with a busy storyline, too many characters and just went on too long, you’ll likely feel the same about “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

Coming in at a bloated running time of nearly three hours, there’s still quite a bit to like about this second sequel to the 2003 hit film. But it would seem the sea legs of this film franchise are getting a bit shaky.

The movie is directed once again by Gore Verbinski, whose role seems more fitting as master of ceremonies over a three-ring circus, judging by the huge cast and busy action sequences. Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have been on board the franchise since the beginning, but have made the mistake of simply expanding the cast too much. When you add in the varied motivations, double and triple crosses that take place among some characters, the audience is left to throw up its hands in resignation.

In fact, instead of trying to follow all the twisted logic of the plot, the “Pirates” films, particularly the last two, work better when just letting yourself be swept along by the action. That, and enjoying the work of the great Johnny Depp, back as the selfish, egotistical, but charismatic Captain Jack. After being taken down in the last film to Davy Jones’ Locker as punishment for his debt to the squid-faced villain, Jack is eventually rescued by his crew, along with notables Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

His rescue is largely for the goal of assembling a meeting of the world’s pirate lords, as they must decide how to deal with the strengthening British forces, led by the heartless Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), who seek to wipe them out. That one sentence description is, unfortunately, a lot more straightforward than the movie ultimately plays out the scenario. The pirates gathering, although a bit too raucous (one could make that argument for much of the film), is certainly energetic and features a tongue-in-cheek cameo by Keith Richards, playing none other than Captain Jack’s dad.

This sets the stage for an action-packed, special effects-laden third act that throws everything but the kitchen sink into the fray. The fact that it works at all is a credit to Verbinski and the talented F/X artists.

Depp and Rush have a number of entertaining scenes together, and certainly have their roles down pat. The Will and Elizabeth romance subplot is again dutifully brought out, but to little effect. That’s not really a criticism of the actors, who do their best, but more to the lack of realistic dramatic conflict between the two. The fact that Knightley is looking entirely too pretty here, compared to the grungy and (one would assume) smelly pirates she shares the screen with, actually serves as a distraction.

The rousing action sequences along with the good dose of humor thrown in along the way helps make the long voyage more enjoyable. But despite the possible sequel set up that takes place after the closing credits, it’s probably best these pirates dock their ships.

Grade: B-
(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images.)

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