With prices for cinema tickets now reaching ridiculous heights it’s not often I will treat myself to a new release unless it’s something I simply cannot wait for. Instead, I’m happy to content myself with a cheap DVD or a film on TV which may have slipped through my critical net and, believe me, there have been far too many. Whether the films featured here are recent or old I’ll still be providing my honest opinion on them and, with the benefit of hindsight in many cases, may offer a slightly different take to contemporary reviewers.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
Having avoided the two sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) since their release I finally plucked up the courage and tackled Dead Man’s Chest (2006) which wasn’t as bad as I feared but still not up to the standard of the original. With the storyline for Dead Man’s Chest remaining unresolved at its conclusion I knew I had no choice but to give At World’s End a try. If you haven’t seen Dead Man’s Chest then stop reading now as this review contains major spoilers!
As with Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End has a busy plot and jumps around throughout its 2½ hours. Beginning quite eerily with a procession of pirates being executed, line after line, we discover that Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) desires control of the seas and now possessing the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) he is able to control the crew of The Flying Dutchman and have them sink rival pirate ships and murder their crews. Meanwhile the returning Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) lead the crew of the Black Pearl in a quest to rescue Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones’ Locker following his death at the hands of the Kraken in the previous film. At World’s End takes us beyond the Caribbean to the likes of Singapore as other private clans from distant lands such as Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat) and Jack’s father Captain Teague (Keith Richards – yes the one from the Rolling Stones!) all join proceedings. With Beckett and Davy Jones hell bent on ridding the seas of pirates, the surviving pirates must band together in one final battle to secure their futures.
First and foremost At World’s End is an improvement on Dead Man’s Chest but still suffers from the same convoluted plot. The introduction of pirates from Singapore, France, Japan and one from the Rolling Stones leaves the audience with even more new faces to get used to. The early stages of the film are in Singapore where Barbossa leads the crew of the Black Pearl to obtain a map revealing the location of Davy Jones’ locker from Sao Feng. There’s a lot of intrigue in this one again with clandestine negotiations going on and everyone having their own agenda. Will is focussed on rescuing his father, Jack decides to be noble and offers to sacrifice himself by stabbing Davy Jones’ heart and taking the cursed captain’s place to forever sail the seas, while Elizabeth is focussed on redemption after sacrificing Jack at the end of Dead Man’s Chest. As you watch At World’s End the best advice is to assume everyone is out for him/herself.
New additions there may be in At World’s End but they are underused and even the much-rumoured appearance of Keith Richards is brief though he does manage to pick up a guitar but declines to play any Rolling Stones numbers. One of the major drawbacks for me about the film was that it took a criminal half an hour before we see Jack Sparrow. His first appearance is trapped in Davy Jones’ locker where the Black Pearl is beached with no ocean in sight and there is a crew of numerous Jack Sparrows. It’s an amusing introduction for the much-loved Jack and it sets the standard for the rest of the film with Johnny Depp being the best thing in it, despite the welcome return of Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa who is still good but not as memorable as in The Curse of the Black Pearl. After all the divided loyalties and ulterior motives have all been revealed it is time for a final battle between the pirates and Beckett’s vastly superior navy, supported by Davy Jones. I particularly enjoyed the naval battles in the previous two films and thankfully the effect was still the same here.
The second half of At World’s End is much better than the first and as the concluding segments approached and the scene was set for Jack to sacrifice himself I found myself believing I knew how it would all turn out. However, At World’s End delivers a very surprising ending but only after we’ve concluded some weaker strands of the plot, by this I mean the romance between Will and Elizabeth. This worked well in the first film, but just seemed dragged out across the next two films and the happy conclusion in the midst of a fierce naval battle was just plain silly. All I can say is pirates apparently have licenses to marry people! The final resolution though was quite shocking but somehow seemed completely apt and made for a much better ending than what I had initially feared. Depp leads the way as the best thing since sliced bread with another star turn as Sparrow, while Rush, Bloom, Nighy and Hollander provide good support. Though Keira Knightley was better in this film I still felt she was out of her comfort zone especially when becoming King (not queen!) of the Pirates and delivering a speech before leading the pirates into battle. It was hardly Queen Elizabeth inspiring the English troops before they set sail to take on the Spanish Armada in 1588! All that said I found this an enjoyable film, still inferior to the original, but a worthy enough sequel.
I had my reservations about the two sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and though both films are not as bad as I feared they still don’t come close to the original. At World’s End suffers for its busy plot but once Jack Sparrow enters the fray it improves dramatically with some engaging naval battles to enjoy, less of the slapstick from Dead Man’s Chest and a genuinely surprising ending to boot. I’m not sure about Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which is due this year but I don’t think it will stop me from giving it a try and hoping it improves on the two sequels.
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