Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) – Directed by Gore Verbinski – Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Chow Yun-fat, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Naomie Harris, Kevin McNally, David Schofield, Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook,
Lee Arenberg, and Keith Richards.
If you want to argue that PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END is too bloated and too dark, you won’t get a huge fight from me; I will, however, counter that despite these problems, I still enjoy the movie a good deal. I find it works much better as a home view than it did in the theaters, as 11 minutes short of 3 hours is just too darn long for a fun movie-going experience.
And that length exemplifies what is both ill-conceived and admirable about AT WORLD’S END: they forgot they were making a popcorn movie.
When I saw this movie in the theaters I left bitterly disappointed at the various endings. For a series that had delivered so much fun, so many thrills, and such nice character growth, AT WORLD’S END is a downer of a movie: Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is killed and becomes the new captain of the Flying Dutchman, meaning he and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) can see each other only once every ten years; Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) has stolen the Black Pearl away from Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp); and Norrington (Jack Davenport) and Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) are dead.
Why? If there was ever a series in which giving us a Happy Hollywood ending would have been totally justified, it’s PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Yet the only character who really ends on a high note is Will’s dad, “Bootstrap” Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgård), and the crew of the Dutchman, who stop being fish men and go back to being regular men.
Watching AT WORLD’S END now, however, I can better appreciate what Gore Verbinski and the rest of the creative team were attempting. Clearly, they want AT WORLD’S END to have a real sense of inevitable decline. At one point in the film Jack mentions he wouldn’t mind being the last pirate alive and Barbosa reminds him that one of the downside of being that last is that inevitably there will be no one left.
The idea that the “old ways” are becoming extinct has been at the heart of the PIRATES trilogy, and here we see that idea taken as far as it can go: Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) has control of the Flying Dutchman because he controls Davy Jones’ heart, and he’s on a quest to rid the world of pirates. In response, the pirate convene a meeting of the Brethren of Pirates, bringing together the nine Pirate Lords to try and figure out what to do.
There’s just one problem – Jack Sparrow is one of the pirate lords and he didn’t name a successor before getting sucked down into Davy Jones’ locker. As seen at the end of DEAD MAN’S CHEST, Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) has brought Hector Barbosa back to life to captain the Pearl‘s crew, Will, and Elizabeth on a quest into Davy Jones’ locker to bring Jack back.
AT WORLD’S END suffers from taking it’s sweet ass time getting anywhere. The opening sequence is an elongated negotiation/fight/team-up with Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), as Barbosa takes the crew to Singapore to ask this Pirate Lord. It’s a half hour before we even get to see Jack on screen, and then we get ten minutes of him acting bonkers.
The film needlessly has Jack, Will, Elizabeth … heck, nearly everyone switching sides to cut the best deal for themselves. I know this loyalty hopping has been a trademark of the series, but it feels a bit tired and unnecessary here because there’s just so much of it. Becket is the enemy yet Sao Feng, Jack, and Will all cut deals with him on the sly for their own benefit. It shouldn’t be this much work keeping track of who’s betraying who.
The movie suffers, too, from a bit of Keira Knightley worship. All the major male players but Barbosa have a thing for her (or Elizabeth Swann, I should say) and it gets a bit tedious to watch every single male try to get in her pants. I mean, I get it, she’s hot and all, but enough’s enough. By the time Sao Feng makes a play on her, I’d had it.
AT WORLD’S END continues the trend of having Elizabeth step into the main spotlight, and while can handle the smaller bits, she’s not very convincing as a Pirate Lord, let alone Pirate King.
Problems aside, the bloatedness of AT WORLD’S END is nearly completely forgotten by me when we get to the final battle between the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman. If there is a greater ship vs. ship battle in cinematic history, I have not seen it. The two ships battle in the wind and rain as they circle an oceanic whirlpool. It’s phenomenally great work from the CGI folk and a rousing battle. I could watch just this final battle on a loop and be satisfied.
In the end, however, I keep coming back to the fact that Verbinski and Company coated everything here in darkness. It’s a blast to see Keith Richards show up to play Jack’s dad, but there’s not enough of these moments. AT WORLD’S END is still an enjoyable movie because I like hanging out with Barbosa, Jack, Will, and Elizabeth and because the action sequences are amazing. It is admirable to see a trilogy go out with all guns blazing (as it were).
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN Review Index
POTC: THE BLACK PEARL: You Best Start Believing in Ghost Stories, Miss Turner, You’re in One
POTC: DEAD MAN’S CHEST: I’m Afraid Currency is the Currency of the Real,
POTC: AT WORLD’S END: All Men are Drawn to the Sea, Perilous Though it May Be
POTC: ON STRANGER TIDES: Does This Face Look Like It’s Been to the Fountain of Youth?