It’s a gross over-generalization, but sometimes it seems there are only two opinions regarding the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies. If you’re a critic, you hate it. If you’re a movie goer, you love it. And that’s that.
As in all things, the truth lies somewhere in between. I won’t rehash my thoughts on the second flick, Dead Man’s Chest. Suffice to say I enjoyed it – more or less. But it wasn’t remotely in the same league as Curse of the Black Pearl, and was burdened with many flaws that could have been easily avoided.
So on to At World’s End. No surprise, it picks up shortly after Dead Man’s Chest left off – Jack’s lost to the world, Norrington is an Admiral for the East India Company, and Turner, Swann, and friends are on a trek to rescue Jack from Davy Jones’ Locker. The opening scene, featuring Lord Beckett’s efforts to purge the caribbean of pirates via mass executions, is troubling and haunting. And it’s also surprisingly brutal, which brings up a point I’d like to address: Kids will see this flick. I know it’s PG-13, and I know that all the commercials highlight this fact and suggest it may not be suitable for the youngins. But in this way Disney is being completely disingenious. They can tout that this isn’t a kid’s flick all they want, but when they turn around and sell Jack Sparrow action figures, Jack Sparrow pajamas, Jack Sparrow bubble bath (I’m not kidding) and so on – don’t try and tell me they don’t intend for kids to see this movie.
So back to the brutal opening – in this scene, the brutality is pointed and powerful. It opens the film in a way that sets an important tone, and so I’ll forgive Disney for this foray into troubling territory. Less forgiveable are the gratouitous violent segments that come later – battles will of course happen, but when a musket shot to a Singapore chick’s brain is punctuated with eyes rolling into the back of her head as she collapses dead in a zombie-like fashion, it makes me wish Disney had been a little more honest with themselves about their target audiences. Sexual content also crosses the line from the slick innuendo of the first film to a more crass level of innappropriateness when the one-eyed pirate Reggetti enjoys an opportunity to glare up Elizabeth’s robe. Both of these examples would be of little note in an average PG-13 movie, but to my mind are out of place in something every 8 year old in the county is dying to see.
OK, I’ve rambled on that point long enough – sorry, but it bothers me. Let’s talk a bit about what’s good in this film, and I’ll try to keep it relatively spoiler-free. The visuals, for a start, where incredible. From the seedy underbelly of Singapore to the edge of the world to the final sea battles, this movie is a definite marvel to look upon. Also impressive was Keith Richard’s role as Captain Teague (a character that I had dreaded since first hearing that Jack Sparrow’s father was to be featured in the sequels, as I couldn’t imagine this being anything other than cheesy and painful to watch. I was pleasantly proven wrong.) Less impressive, however, was Tia Dalma’s eventual exit, which seemed somewhat a “we couldn’t think of anything better at the time, so we just went with this” sort of scene.
It’s worth noting is that many of Dead Man’s Chest’s shortcomings were at least partially remedied this time around – Elizabeth is once again competent and strong (gone is the poutiness of the last film), Jack is in at least somewhat cleverish, and Barbossa – after sitting out the second film almost entirely – is back in full force. Unfortunately, one major pitfall that was deftly avoided in the first two flicks was finally struck in part three – that being clever, humanlike animals. If anyone can tell me when Barbossa’s monkey became a demolitions expert, I’d love to hear it.
World’s End certainly has its shortcomings, but it is much improved from the hiccup that was Dead Man’s Chest. Truly, its greatest failing is just not having enough time for itself. From the already complicated plotlines of the primary characters to the introductions of the apparently fascinating (but then completely under-utilized) pirate lords, this movie sometimes feels like a long series of fascninating-yet-unexplored facets strung together with stunning visuals. As the two movies were written simultaneaously, it would have been nice had they removed some of Dead Man’s Chest’s nonsensical filler (read that, “Cannibal Island”) in exchange for making more room for expanding on the more interesting segments of World’s End. Woulda shoulda coulda…
I enjoyed At World’s End. I enjoyed it a lot. It wasn’t the benchmark film that was Curse of the Black Pearl, but it was very good in its own right. And the ending, I felt, was perfectly satisfying. I liked where everyone ended up, and some gutsy choices were made that pissed off some viewers, but that I felt gave the conclusion some teeth that would have otherwise been lost. Let me reiterate this last point, just in case anyone from Disney is reading this – the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy ended WELL! Let it remain so, and for the love of Mickey, please don’t make another unless you’re truly up to the challenge in the same vein as you were with Black Pearl. Otherwise, walk away from a job (mostly) well done.