Monday, May 28, 2007

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is everything the critics say: It’s long, complicated, and sometimes hard to follow.
Oh, and it’s one thing they say it’s not: Terrific.
I don’t understand all the haranguing about how complex this movie is. Aren’t the people complaining the same critics who moan incessantly about how dumb summer movies typically are? Yes, as the third installment in the insanely successful “Pirates” trilogy, “At World’s End” has a lot of heavy lifting to do to wrap everything up. Usually this means long sequences of exposition (see “Spider-Man 3”), but “Pirates 3” bounces along with only rare moments of flagging intensity. What puts this movie over the top is its investment in characters. Much credit is due screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, because all the major players—and there are several—have their own arcs and depth.
Part of the problem with last year’s “Dead Man’s Chest” stemmed from the fact that it was basically just half a movie. The myriad plotlines established in that film are wrapped up here, and not in some ham-fisted, oh-crap-we’re-running-out-of-time way. Yes, this movie may be almost three hours long, but if that’s what it takes for this kind of storytelling, so be it. Everything starts to come together about halfway through “At World’s End,” and it’s great fun to see it all weave together. This should make “Dead Man’s Chest” more rewatchable than before.
And story aside, “At World’s End” is an absolute stunner when it comes to action and visuals. Where the second film focused more on mano y mano swordplay, the conclusion ramps back up on the epic seafaring battles from the first film, 2003’s “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” There is action throughout, but the final hour is a nonstop, eye-popping battle royale on the swirling open water.
Once again Johnny Depp anchors the entire show with his squirrelly Jack Sparrow, as brilliant, funny, and captivating as ever (yes, he’s back from the dead—did you really think he wouldn’t be?). The movie benefits, though, from the return of Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, Sparrow’s arch-enemy. The two must unite to face not just Davy Jones (played with continual quiet dignity by Bill Nighy), but the entire East India Trading Co. Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom, meanwhile, give their best performances of the series as star-crossed lovers Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner, and Keith Richards saunters onscreen for a fabulous cameo.
Depp says one of his goals in doing these popcorn flicks was an attempt to buck the system from the inside for a change. With “Pirates 3,” he comes as close as any one actor can with a big dumb action movie that actually does have a brain, charm, wit, humor, and heart. It’s not like he and director Gore Verbinski set out to make “Apocalypse Now”—but here they have their cake and eat it, too. Really, what other leading man in Hollywood could squeeze a trippy, lengthy hallucination sequence into a big-budget Disney flick—and make it work?
Remember, this franchise is based on an amusement park ride, not a Shakespeare play. The fact that it even exists is amazing. The fact that it doesn’t suck is admirable. The fact that it’s this good makes it a real summertime treasure.
Grade: A-
Oh, and one more thing: Stick around to the end of the credits. You won’t regret it.

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