Have you ever noticed how both good and bad things are said to come in three’s? The month of May at the movies this year does nothing to answer that question but it does take the entire superstition that much further, by making it so when things, good or bad, come in three’s, nothing else comes at all. The big commercial theatre where I saw “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” was playing only three films on its dozen or so screens. This summer’s other high profile third chapters, “Spider-Man 3” and “Shrek 3”, joined it. With these three films monopolizing every screen, how can any other film come to matter or register a dent in the consciousness of filmgoers? One could conclude that the theatre is just giving the people what they want but how accurate is that? By the time the third part in a series rolls around, people seem to be tired of the whole thing and just ready for it to be over. Given how much bile has been spilled over all three of the aforementioned films, it appears as though it has become cool to turn on those that have provided so much entertainment in the past. Luckily for Hollywood, the trend has done nothing to stop the money from rolling in.
I didn’t care for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”. I found it to have had its comic moments but to be overdrawn and tedious at times, lacking the spontaneity and energy of the first film, “The Curse of the Black Pearl”. As a result, I didn’t have much of an interest in “At World’s End”. The “Pirates” series falls into a category of trilogy where the second and third installments were not specifically intended when the first was conceived. What was once a complete story must be expanded into a longer series. Some storylines are given back-story while others are stretched so thin that it becomes distracting to actually grasp how everything is connected. In “At World’s End”, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) needs to be brought back from the dead, known here as Davy Jones’ Locker. With a variety of selfish motivations, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) make the dangerous journey along with their regular crew. Once back, Jack and company must defeat Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) and his fleet, who intend to rid the world of all pirates. Along the way, a number of other sub plots find some screen time but find themselves ultimately left ashore. Having already seen the first two films, I found it somewhat difficult to piece the muddled puzzle together at times so I can only imagine how lost one would be coming into this film without any previous pirate experience. Overly complex stories are almost inevitable though when you expand a story that was never intended to be expanded to begin with.
The “Pirates” series has relied increasingly on visual effects as the series has progressed. While the transitions between pirates and the undead in the first film were sleek and engrossing, the film itself struck with viewers thanks primarily to the wild and unpredictable performance of Johnny Depp. Depp has been just as consistent at being inconsistent in the two latter films but there’s only so much further the character can go. Subsequently, the visual aspects needed to step it up to deliver that which a summer blockbuster is expected to deliver. Back for a third time is director Gore Verbinski, taking a decidedly darker, more surreal approach to the pirates he made famous. When a film opens with mass hangings and the announcement that a number of citizens are being robbed of their fundamental rights, you know that fluff is not about to follow. Only here, it does. What ensues is a ride that bounces back and forth between varying visual motifs that leave the viewer lost at sea. That being said, I don’t think I will forget that close-up of Depp’s nose traveling along the screen, sniffing for a peanut, for a very long time.
It’s hard to say goodbye to anything that has been with you for so long. It’s even harder for studios to imagine never seeing the size of treasure that Jack and crew haul in with each of their adventures. Hence, even as this trilogy comes to its intended close, further pirate plots are being cooked up by studio heads that will likely plow ahead with them with or without their regular cast. That doesn’t stop “At World’s End” from ensuring that every possible audience satisfaction is met before the credits role. Characters say their goodbye’s almost as if they were the actors themselves saddened by the end of their own experiences together. The film suddenly seems to be fully aware of its own significance in the pop culture fabric. The problem here is the film is giving itself more credit than it likely deserves as it seems these days that more people flock to trilogy closers out of obligation and not anticipation.
Review by Joseph Bélanger