Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom star in a film written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio and directed by Gore Verbinski.
At their best, great adventure films can set up sequels that trim the fat from the original film, beef up the finer elements, and deliver an improved version with the same themes. The first Pirates of the Caribbean did just that. It was a pleasant surprise, an unexpectedly good-natured swashbuckler with choice supernatural elements, and a fantastically unhinged performance by Johnny Depp.
Unfortunately, last summer’s Dead Man’s Chest was a textbook example of how not to make a sequel: convoluted, clunky, and bloated with unfunny gags and loose plot ends, the film was interminable. And now all the elements that made the second Pirates film such a bore have been amplified and extended in At World’s End, a nearly unwatchable mish-mash of characters, subplots, and styles that conspire to make Dead Man’s Chest seem, in retrospect, a fine effort.
The film’s problems begin with an uncharacteristic and unnecessarily dark scene that culminates with an innocent child being hanged. Why this was necessary and its relevance to the film’s story is never explained, establishing a trend that will characterize most events in this high-concept dead-end. Then an all-too-brief action sequence unfolds. Viewers are advised to savor this sequence as there won’t be another full-blown action duel until the end of the movie, more than two hours later.
With too many protagonists to count on one hand, the movie awkwardly meanders from one locale to another while a series of totally arbitrary plot twists play themselves out. Even Johnny Depp, at this point the only saving grace of the series, is allowed far too few chances to entertain. There are intermittent sequences where he must do battle with clones of himself inside his mind’s eye and these inventive, funny moments are a delight. However, they account for about 6 percent of the total runtime of this nearly three-hour non-epic.
Unsurprisingly, the end of the film leaves open the chance of a sequel. It’s a shame, though, that any more money, time, and talent will be spent on this soggy series. At World’s End doesn’t just fail to deliver action and thrills, it fails to deliver much of anything. Hopefully, actors as talented as Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Bill Nighy will jump ship on the next installment and swim to more provocative-or at least coherent-projects.