Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End isn’t the worst of the threequels that have launched summer movie season. But it is still a shadow of its former self. Where it makes strides with the female lead, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), it inadvertently spends an entire film on characters we (ultimately) don’t care about.
It feels a bit strange to complain about the movie, considering you get bang for your buck and then some. They pack so much cgi, so much adventure, so much of everything that the experience, even without the emotional punch, is certainly worth the nearly three hours of time it takes out of your life. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3.
Both Spider-Man and Pirates were the two summer movies most people were primed and ready to see. Both proved that the threequel is alive and well and selling like hotcakes. Pirates turns out to be the least offensive because it takes itself the least seriously.
At World’s End takes off where the second film left off – basically with the overly simplistic yet somehow confusing premise that Jack Sparrow (the delightful Johnny Depp) has been taken to Davy Jones’ Locker. The team is to go rescue him. Why? Because Elizabeth loves him or because he has the Black Pearl or the beating heart. I don’t think I understood a single thing that was going on during the entire movie up to, and including, Elizabeth’s marriage to Will (Orlando Bloom).
Probably much of the reason the film doesn’t impact emotionally is because the plot keeps moving in a circular pattern like a whirlpool, like Lost or 24. There is no end in sight, but gee, it’s fun to watch.
All three Pirate films do a great job at capturing that Disney-inspired world of pirates and their swampy coves. Where they go wrong is in investing too much in Davy Jones, his beating heart or lack thereof and his ineffectual sword play. Bill Nighy is wonderful as Jones, but his character just isn’t scary enough. The first film is still scarier than the sequels because of the real undead – the freakish skeletons who have all but vanished in the third film.
Depp is the real reason people keep coming back. Even those who hate the films love Johnny Depp. The film only comes alive when Depp is on screen, and since the story doesn’t really revolve around him, much of it seems like a grand waste of time.
If they decide to do a fourth film it will have to be all Captain Sparrow all of the time. Since his shtick is mostly comedic, it’s difficult to form an actual plot around him – even the attempt to develop romantic tension between him and Elizabeth came up flat.
It isn’t that At World’s End is so terrible, it’s that the movie-going public has evolved to have such low standards for what they’ll pay money to see. Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, this film would have flopped. Successful films had to be good back then. Now, good marketing makes the money. And the public doesn’t have a clue.