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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

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“We have to be lost to find the places that couldn’t be found”

Batten down your hatches for swashbuckling mayhem in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, a film that delivers everything an audience expects with a few surprises. Filmmakers present plenty of treasure for the audiences with some minor lulls (like characters choosing up sides) on its 168 minute course.

Johnny Depp again headlines a familiar foursome of characters as the seemingly inept Captain Jack Sparrow. “Do you think he plans it all out or makes it up as he goes along?” asks a British soldier observing Jacks’ antics. Depp doesn’t make his appearance right away, but makes up for that lost time in multiples. Geoffrey Rush again provides plenty of pirate bravado and appeal as Captain Barbossa in a welcome reprise. He still commands presence, even after losing some of his mean side. The eccentric Captain Jack uses his wits to save himself several times throughout the plot, but his survival tactics can only take him so far, as audiences saw at the end of the second film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. “Think you can outrun the world?” Barbossa says to Jack as the two captains match wits and screen time here even more than the first film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp still has charm and wisdom, which he uses to his advantage throughout this rousing adventure based on the Walt Disney theme park attraction.

Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings) again plays the hero Will Turner while Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham) also stars as Elizabeth Swann. It’s still a family affair as the happy couple must contend with the dramatic situations of their respective fathers — Elizabeth’s father, Governor Weatherby, played by Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies) and “Bootstrap” Bill Turner, played by Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting). Chow Yun Fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) plays new character Captain Sao Feng, who mainly grandstands amid some muddled dialogue and, sadly, doesn’t showcase his famous fighting skills. Filmmakers should’ve given more screen time to Keith Richards, who makes a subtle but very memorable appearance as the Pirate King.

Tia Dalma, played by Naomi Harris (28 Days Later, Miami Vice) and Norrington, played by Jack Davenport (Gosford Park), an admiral now, also factor into the plot. It’s good to be bad in a pirate movie and the returning baddies don’t disappoint. Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Underworld) again makes a great villain as Davy Jones. Antagonist Lord Cutler Beckett, played by Tom Hollander, doesn’t have a menacing presence, but his shady actions speak volumes. Beckett’s use of the East India Trading Company legitimizes his evil scheme to dominant the Caribbean territories, which now stands under martial law to wipe out all piracy.

Director Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Mousehunt) optimizes his available filmmaking elements very well. Composer Hans Zimmer returns for the musical score based on many excellent themes from the first film’s memorable score by Klaus Badelt (sadly, the most familiar theme plays only during the ending credits). Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Shrek) produce another fast, funny screenplay, trimmed from the original first cut, which was more than three hours long. Writers plot out some assumptions for the audience like Britain’s colonial history that explain their military presence in a distant country. Comedic elements like the telescope gag and “unimaginative” pirate titles work well, but the plot could’ve used more storytelling elements.

In the first film, supporting characters were fighting over who gets to tell the story. Now audiences know the characters better, but interesting content equals a more interesting plot. For example, a quick reference to Jack’s turbulent history with Sao Feng could’ve been expanded, but gets overlooked because Jack has irritated many other characters, so this grudge is nothing new. A funny story about what Jack did to Sao Feng would’ve entertained and possibly developed Feng’s character – a definite necessity for his unnecessarily large amount of screen time. Writers continue their “world is getting smaller” theme from the second film (weak filler material for some “serious” moments) while adding some showdown moments in the western style.

The rousing ending bursts with action sequences and naval tactics. Visual effects provide many standout moments including the slow-motion sequence. This pirate picture comes recommended and is rated PG-13 for action violence, dark themes, and frightening images. Be sure to stay until after the ending credits for additional scene.

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