POTC: At World's End - Worthy or Witless?

Movie review by Dee-Marie, Contributing Columnist

 
As I purchased my ticket to view Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, I entered the theatre with a giddy childlike enthusiasm. At the movie's end, I left with an apathetic sadness. Let me preface this review with a confession—from childhood, I have been addicted to Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: from my first ride on the Walt Disney World attraction, to eagerly viewing the previous Pirates' movies. I am also a huge fan of the three main stars: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly. Over the years I have diligently followed their careers; viewing every movie that each starred in—without disappointment—until now...?
 
The Pirates © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Will (Orlando Bloom), Jack (Johnny Depp), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Capt. Sao Feng (Yun-Fat Chow)
 
The Dire and Indifferent
 
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Disney's newest sequel of their Pirates' franchise, can be summed up as a comical action adventure filled with: revenge, death, resurrection and redemption (in that order). Nearly every character from the previous two movies (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest) makes an appearance, along with an equal number of new characters. By the end of the movie, the cast dwindled by at least seventy-five percent; due to death or dismemberment. Be forewarned, At World's End is not a movie for young children.
 
Old Adversaries © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), with Jack the Monkey, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy)
 
Throughout the movie, I squirmed uncomfortably due to the glut of nonchalant violence, mingled with an excessively high body count. Although not bloody, At World's End was, never-the-less, deadly and at times disturbing. From the opening scene, which lingered far too long on the mass hangings of seemingly innocent men, women, and children. While the previous two movies in the series teetered on the edge of the violence gangplank, At World's End gleefully steps into a sea of sadistic folly.
 
The over-bloated cast, along with the abundance of plots, subplots, and plot twists, turns Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End from a lighthearted fun-packed family adventure, into a confusing, foray into lunacy. The movie is filled with "What the ....?" moments. Granted, most (not all) of the "plot hole" questions are answered several scenes after a "What the ....?" moment. Yet, throughout the movie, the audience is forced to "think back" to previous scenes to figure out what happened.
 
The Brethren Court © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
 
If the "What the ....?" moments were dispersed sporadically throughout the movie, it would be only moderately annoying. However, the "let's fill in the plot holes with action stopping narratives," every other scene, took the fun out of the fantasy. Playing plot catch-up, and constantly ripped away from the current storyline, with the realization of, "ahh, ok, I get it now," was exasperating. I can only suspect that this was done deliberately, in an attempt to promote repeat viewing, thus more box-office draw, (ironically, I agree with the multi-viewing).
 
Approximately twenty minutes, into the nearly three hour long movie, the plot comes to a screeching halt for several long, yawn induced moments, as the storyline discovers Johnny Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow. (No spoiler alert is needed, for there would be no Pirates of the Caribbean movie without Johnny Depp).
 
Jack was last seen swallowed alive by a Kraken (a giant cuttlefish-like sea monster). He is now condemned to Davy Jones Locker; doomed to wander around for all eternity in a hallucinogenic stupor. If, like me, you are a Johnny Depp loyalist—willing to watch any movie he appears in, even if he spends a good amount of the movie alone on a desert island talking to himself—word of caution, be careful what you wish for.
 
The Auspicious and Brilliant
 
Initially, leaving the theatre, I was sorely disappointed, after all, I had gone to the movie for an escape. I fully expected to sit back, munch popcorn, and enjoy a couple hours of watching strong woman and hunky men in mindless swashbuckling fun.
 
Captain Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
 
Instead, I found myself forced to think, to reason, to recall, to calculate. I enjoy sleuthing while watching a murder mystery movie. However, I was unprepared to replace a rollick into the world of fantasy with an evening of logic and analytical reasoning. At times keeping up with the storyline gave me an ice cream headache.
 
Yet, interlaced within the dialog diarrhea, swashbuckling, and land/sea battles, there were flashes of precious jewel moments. As with the previous Pirates' movies, the computer generated imagery was, once again, mind-blowing—thanks to the amazing team at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), headed by: Animation Supervisor Hal Hickel, Visual Effects Designer Geoff Campbell, Visual Effects Supervisors John Knoll and Charles Gibson.
 
Royal Battle © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
 
The ILM team's prime directive is to breathe realism into unrealistic characters and situations; gently rattling the viewers conception of reality, until logical thinking is surrendered completely; dissolving reason into an illogical suspension of disbelief. The ILM team's magic can be best experienced in the Pirate crews' fleeting, calm, picturesque star-filled sea journey to find Captain Jack; and the never-ending violent, powerful whirlpool maelstrom battle scene.
 
ILM Magic © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
 
On reflection, to truly savor Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the movie deserves several consecutive viewings, preferably within a short period of time of each other. The first viewing should be devoted to understanding the numerous plots and subplots. Watch it with a clear mind, and take mental (or better yet physical) notes.
 
The next viewing is needed to pick up on the little nuances missed in the first viewing. Such as, the continuing themes that thread the trilogy into a single tapestry. Pay special attention to the sword that Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) crafts in the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The sword subtly binds the plot from one movie to the next, and significantly drives the At World's End's storyline.
 
Father and Son © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom)
 
There is also the underlying theme of parental devotion. A strong father-child relationship intertwines the main characters: The love and devotion Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) has for her father, Governor Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce); The affection and dedication that Will Turner has for his father Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard); and the respect mixed with loathing that Jack Sparrow shows for his estranged father, Captain Teague (Keith Richards). Yes, the infamous band member of the Rolling Stones does indeed make a quick, but memorable, cameo appearance.
 
The Kiss © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley)
 
Although heavy on action, At World's End remains a character driven movie. The triangle between Jack, Will, and Elizabeth remains steady. Added to the mix is a multifaceted assortment of characters, each with their own storyline: Pirate Lords and their crews, a voodoo priestess, British soldiers (of varying degrees of good and evil), and Davy Jones and his fishy gang.
 
 
Subsequent viewings of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, should be spent in the pure enjoyment of the grandeur of the adventure.
 
In Conclusion
 
Approach the viewing of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with caution. As with all movies in the series, this sequel is a feast for the eyes. The costume design is award winning, the CGI/FX are incredible, the acting professional, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom are delicious.
 
Within a testosterone overloaded environment; Naomie Harris (as the voodoo priestess, Tia Dalma) and Keira Knightley are physically and emotionally powerful female characters. Both easily hold their own against the cast of iron-willed males.
 
Jam-packed with verbal humor, sight gags, sword fighting, ship to ship sea battles, murderous treachery, and an underpinning of amour—even with its faults, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End will have something of interest for most everyone. Is it the best movie of the trilogy? No! Is it worth the price of an E-ticket? Most definitely—if only to see Johnny Depp, alone on a desert island, talking to himself.
 
At World's End © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures
 
In conclusion, a quote from Jack Sparrow, "I wash my hands of this weirdness."
 
We invite you to visit:
 
Oh, and do not leave the theatre until after the credits!
 
All supporting images copyright © 2007 Walt Disney Pictures,
and cannot be copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner
 without written permission from Walt Disney Pictures.
 
 
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June 11, 2007