Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
This movie's a mess. Some who have been following my reviews for a long time will understandably take that statement with a grain of salt, as my feelings towards this series have always been lukewarm at best. I liked the first one, though not as much as many others. The second one showed many signs of weakness, but still was generally enjoyable. Though this final (for now, at least) chapter has its share of epic spectacle, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio's script is incredibly corny and convoluted. The "Trivia" section on the IMDB entry for the movie says that filming began before the screenplay was finished. For some reason, that doesn't surprise me.
Johnny Depp doesn't show up for about forty minutes, and the recently resurrected Captain Barbossa(Geoffrey Rush) ably steps in to fill the void. Rush is brilliant, and with the help of numerous comedic supporting cast members as well as that little undead monkey, he keeps the early sequences surprisingly buoyant.
As for our favorite pirate, Jack Sparrow is stuck in the limbo known as "Davy Jones's locker" after having been swallowed by the monstrous Kraken last time. These scenes allow director Gore Verbinski a lot of room for experimentation, and he crafts some arresting and genuinely bizarre scenes that you might not expect in a big commercial film. As for the squid-faced Jones himself (Bill Nighy), he's joined forces with the British diplomats to try and stamp out piracy altogether.
Captain Jack, Barbossa and Davy Jones form the "upper tier" of the major characters (as well as Bootstrap Bill, a doomed pirate on Davy Jones's ship. Stellan Skarsgaard manages to bring an amazing amount of pathos to a role that requires him to have a starfish stuck to his face); all are interesting to watch and are brought to vivid life by the actors playing them. On the "lower teir," we have Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who have to be the two of the blandest lead characters to ever show up in three movies in a row. Their "romance" is almost a parody of this type of fantasy love story, complete with eye-roll inducing expressions of love in the midst of battle. Add the Asian pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) to this lower tier as well. This character's debut in the series was announced in the trailers and ads with great fanfare, but he turns out to be almost completely inconsequential.
Once Jack is rescued, the movie slowly builds towards the final battle between the pirates and the English/Davy Jones. Viewers will get a close look at the humorous kingergarten-esque politics that govern the pirate world, as our heroes go before a council of pirate lords to debate options for the coming showdown. I fear I'm making it sound much more coherent than it actually is...most of this "build-up" is just a seemingly endless sucession of double-crossings. One scene in particular has so many reversals in a row it comes off like a "Family Guy" joke. Don't these two writers realize there are other options available for plot twists?
That final battle is some well-staged mayhem, but becomes increasingly nonsensical. We're treated to shots of what must be a hundred British ships, and yet only one of them gets into combat. And after all the squabbling about whether the pirate lords would fight, why do only Barbossa and Captain Jack take part in the final battle? Your guess is as good as mine. This series has gotten so confident in the ability to overshadow poor writing with grandiose action that they don't even bother trying to tie up some of these loose ends....and yet, for all the dazzling fights that conclude this third film, there's nothing quite as fun as that zany waterwheel chase from Dead Man's Chest. Certainly at least one betrayal could have been removed from this three hour beast to allow for another scene like that.
Bon voyage, Pirates. Let's hope if number four materializes, the screenplay is at least done (and ideally, proofread) before they start making the movie.