317 – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

The third Pirates movie is a bloated carcass that seems to consist solely of people running (or sailing) from Action Scene to Action Scene, with only a convoluted plot to keep them afloat. It doesn’t always work.

Clocking in at 165 minutes, “At World’s End” contains several endings too many. “Ah,” you think, “that’s the end!” and then more stuff happens, and you fall asleep. It’s as if the producer (Jerry Bruckheimer, of course) looked at the clock, noticed that a mere two hours had elapsed, and ordered his writing minions to crank out more implausibles to stretch the running time for no apparent reason.

So. Did I like the movie, you wonder? Well, I sat through nearly three hours of it, so I suppose I should find something positive to say. Things blew up, and that was awesome. Plus, I decided that Keira Knightley was far manlier than Orlando Bloom, who I’m told is actually a man. (No, seriously!) And that Johnny Depp wears mascara better than Knightley, who’s apparently not a little boy.

All kidding aside, the biggest problem with the movie is that it’s overplotted. We make fun of dumb action movies that have minimal plot and are basically excuses for explosions, but here’s the mirror image – there’s so much going on that the typical viewer will be confused and disoriented. Which is good, I suppose, in that it’ll distract him or her from the actual storyline problems.

When we last left the Good Guys, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) had been claimed by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and imprisoned in (believe it or not) Davy Jones’ Locker. The resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Will Turner (Bloom), and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) must rescue him. To do so, they have to team up with or defeat or betray Singapore’s own legendary pirate, Sao Feng (the wonderful Chow Yun-Fat), as well as various Pirate Lords, the British navy, and so on.

The biggest problem facing Barbossa is that the one force that can help him and the other Pirate Lords against the likes of Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) is that of an ancient goddess, who has been bound to a human body for years and years. Barbossa wants to unleash the goddess in hopes that she’ll aid them all, but clear thinkers around him are more of the mind that she’ll instead beat the snot out of them for imprisoning her in the first place. Of course, this being a loud action movie, there’s no way in heck she’s going to stay bound in a human body, right? Hilarity ensues.

The cast is game, but typically wooden performances by Bloom and Knightley are countered by an equally typically nuanced and often hysterical one by Depp – not to mention a bombastic, scene-stealing turn by Rush. But plot oddities abound. Elizabeth seems awash in makeup that never, ever comes off or smudges in the teeniest, despite one protracted scene taking place in a torrential downpour. I also liked the time Elizabeth was ambushed by British soldiers, one of whom puts her in a headlock; when she recognizes one of the other soldiers, Elizabeth merely throws off her captor’s arm and escapes. Why she didn’t do this throughout the movie, when she was in constant peril or capture, is a mystery. Or how the entire British navy, upon seeing one of their own ships decimated by pirates, says, “the hell with this,” and sails away.

As I implied, though, the movie’s murky plot is its ultimate downfall. Who’s on whose side? You know going in that there will be treachery, but when a movie has every character essentially turning on every other character, the whole novelty of the doublecross is long since vanished. After a while, you come to expect someone doing someone else wrong, all the more so if those two characters sort of were on the same side at one point earlier in the series. Once you tune out important details like who’s on which side, the movie’s sort of lost its way.

And here’s more bad news. The conventional wisdom in Hollywood now is that franchise films should be three movies long, no more, that three’s about the limit for the typical moviegoer. But the ending very strongly hints that there will be a fourth Pirates movie. This might wind up being wishful thinking on the part of Bruckenheimer and director Gore Verbinski (who have done all three movies), rather than reality, as the second and third movies were filmed simultaneously.

All in all, this is a butt-numbing disappointment. If you gotta make it long, make it worth my while. If you’re gonna have crap blow up, make it interesting. If you’re gonna have double and triple crosses, make me care.



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