|Directed by:||Gore Verbinski|
|Written by:||Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio|
|Cast:||Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgard, Jack Davenport, Chow Yun-Fat|
It’s not too hard to pinpoint the certain elements that made the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films so successful. The action was chockfull, the comedy was wry and witty, the characters were memorable and relatable, and everything was sealed by a specific sense of old-fashioned mythology, utterly traditional storytelling and dynamics, and an ultimately fulfilling, “don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously” vibe that made the whole experience okay to put limitless amounts of butter in summer popcorn. It’s a cinematic recipe that has been utilized by merely every successful action/adventure franchise: the Indiana Jones trilogy, the Star Wars saga, etc. And after such lackluster disappointments in today’s various franchises, I would like to say that At World’s End, the third and semi-conclusive chapter to the Pirates franchise, manages to uphold its predecessors’ success, but unfortunately, the film further proves that “three” may just be the jaded number when it comes to film triumvirates. Nevertheless, as always, all must be in good fun.
Despite being set on such a grand, dramatically global, and much more epic scale, At World’s End falls just short of being completely turgid. The story is blotched and overstuffed with subplots, dragging sequences of boring, nearly pointless banter, and cheesy, banal through-backs to the original film. It’s quite hard to actually divide the film into three solid acts. While the first act can be easily distinguished as a journey into the supernatural and an interlude to the newer members of the pirate ensemble, the second and third acts are jammed, jumbled, and pasted together with plot points that, when they work, are genuinely successful and intriguing, and when they fail, can be frustratingly dull, and in all the story works on a very hit-or-miss level (while providing a mere equal share of both). While the second installment established a good deal of friction and conflict between the key characters, this film, while not quick on development, certainly remembers what it has to pick up, what has to be resolved, and what themes must be engulfed in order to do so.
As the trusts and loyalties of the protagonists tie and untie through venal action and acts of both selfishness and selflessness, one may think, at first glance, that the film may just unfold into a genuine tale of betrayal. Although this concept was set as a precedent in the film’s predecessor, Dead Man’s Chest, and is played with and utilized in the film, it turns out that the true story may just lie within the choice of redemption that these characters inevitably come across – and this is where we pick up on the more coveted characterization and development. First we have Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, as their relationship reaches a rocky crossroads, ironically, out of love. As Will becomes detached of the couple’s relationship out of his love for his father and his desperation to free him from the demonic realms of Davy Jones’s locker, Elizabeth is encompassed by her strict loyalty and devotion to Will, her pirate acquaintances, and to that universal battle between good and evil. Then on the polar opposite end of the scale, there are the outrageously askew and utterly selfish antics of Jack Sparrow, whose must choose to either continue chaotically consequential disloyalty amongst the pirate world, or embark upon his redeeming qualities by acting upon selflessness. It all works in a strikingly traditional dynamic, and yet, a totally admirable and tangible one at most.
From a more technical and aesthetic standpoint, At World’s End is so fulfilling, it’s almost unbelievable. Although the film may be the weakest of the three in terms of execution, it is without a doubt the most visually astute. Everything from the uber-lavish cinematography to the absolutely eye popping visual effects can be described as nothing shorter than eye candy. And what satisfying candy it is! The visual effects are, quite simply, amongst the most gorgeous, realistic, spontaneous, and groundbreaking ever conceived on celluloid. Although this summer does seem grandiose in rich computer animation with the likes of Transformers and Ratoutille (which both seem just as visually breathtaking), there’s no doubt in my mind that At World’s End will be remembered come award season. Another added layer of décor for the film’s exuberant aesthetic is Hans Zimmer’s absolutely masterful score. As the film delves into a much more global, international essence (as pirates from all over the world unite to fight “at world’s end”), Zimmer perfectly resonates this them by making the score a much more diverse crescendo of esthetic within the different cultures portrayed in the film, conceiving a lovely musical composition that reflects the musical facets of Asian, African, and European culture – take my advice and keep your ears keen and tentative while watching this film.
Performance wise, there is no distinct difference in deliverance in At World’s End when compared to its predecessors. Johnny Depp has undoubtedly proven himself as the epitome in performance relishing with his role as Jack Sparrow and goes utterly wild and spontaneous with the character, and yet brings nothing that can be described as substantial. In my opinion, the more intriguing performance comes from Bill Nigh and his turn as the villainous Davy Jones. Nigh, while entertaining in his role as the story’s definitive antagonist, also garners this wintry sense of mysterious, and, after discovering the back story behind the character, curious sympathy, which resonate the true theme of the film. Because if one looks closely enough at each of the Pirates film, one can see that for each film there lies a central, underlying theme. While the first chapter could be seen as a genuine tale of the primordial and bonds of friendship, and the second entry can be timidly seen as a tale of departure and betrayal, this third installment evokes one universal theme: love. Although it may seem a bit cheesy, the theme of love is certainly what unites each of the character’s storylines and it may just be what the franchise is all about. But with At World’s End, it certainly works a true gist in the plot, whether it’s in Will’s courageous pursuit for his father’s freedom, Elizabeth’s love and patience for Will that drive her to the full-fledged bonds of loyalty, Jack’s unsuspected love for his lifestyle, ship, and crew that may just lead to his redemption, or Davy Jones’s spiritual corruption by the failure that his love brought, everything is highlighted by that underlying theme.
All in all, At World’s End, while an enormous visual spectacle and technical achievement, is a blockbuster with a knack to be a balanced composition of both dull and highly enjoyable qualities. Albeit the film the film fails in its attempt to bring any of the series’ aspects to a higher, newer ground, it would be ultimately fair to say that its remaining on that same level, while dull in most aspects, manages to deliver in that same sense of entertainment.