Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

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Once you start downhill, it's difficult to halt the momentum. So to apply this metaphor to the world of cinema, once a film franchise delivers a poor entry, it's almost impossible to not deliver poor ones from then on out. So, imagine the surprise when, after the lackluster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, that screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio and director Gore Verbinski are able to deliver a superior third entry in the Pirates series with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. It is hardly perfect, still far too long and lacking in emotional depth, but for a summer spectacle, it still manages to deliver the goods to a degree.

At World's End opens not long after Dead Man's Chest, with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) joining forces with recently resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to rescue Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones' locker, where he was dragged to by the Kraken at the conclusion of the last film. While they are on their way to the afterlife, Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), has exerted his influence over Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and is using him to bring the pirates of the world to their knees. With their very existence on the line, the pirate lords meet to discuss the possibility of joining forces to combat Beckett, but since these are pirates, there is a wide variety of skullduggery and backstabbing to be had.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is rife with dazzling visuals. As with both previous films, At World's End has spent it's almost-certainly astronomical budget on what actually goes on the screen. The sets, costumes, and stunning visual effects are impressive, to say the least. You might be excused for actually believing that what you are seeing is real at times, not just movie trickery. The make-up artists have also once again proved that they can be the go to guys for the creation of unappealing looking characters, as almost no one in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End looks like they have taken a bath or brushed their teeth, well, ever, which, in this case, seems to work for the film. If you want to see a visually spectacular motion picture, especially on the big screen, you need look no further than At World's End.

On the other hand, if you are interested in depth to go along with the glittery outside, then At World's End will prove to be somewhat lacking, although not nearly as much as Dead Man's Chest. The key problem to this film is that the characters are underdeveloped. Most of what makes them up is played out again without much added to the proceedings from the previous entries: Jack wants everything for himself, Barbossa wants what Jacks wants also, Will wants Elizabeth and Elizabeth wants, seemingly, to be a pirate. Frankly, it's a bit sad that the character with one of the best emotional arcs in the film is one of its villains, Davy Jones, who has an almost touching degree of pathos added to him thanks to a scene about halfway through the film. Perhaps it is the film's never ending attempt to keep the audience uncertain where the various characters loyalties lie that also works against the audiences' identification with almost anyone. When it seems that everyone is out only for themselves, it's hard to work up much enthusiasm for them.

The film's cardinal sin, as has been the case with every Pirates entry thus far, is its bloated length. At World's End does not have nearly the lopsided running time to substance ratio that Dead Man's Chest did, but it still overstays it's welcome. Much like fellow summer blockbuster Spider-Man 3, the filmmakers seem to believe that bigger is better, and that is sometimes just not the case. In the film's defense, there is quite of bit of plot to fill the minutes, but it could have still been trimmed back to some degree while maintaining, and perhaps even increasing, the entertainment value.

That being said, At World's End still manages a few surprises, and the ending does pay off much of what has gone before, and even though the "love" between Elizabeth and Will seems almost non-existent, a key scene at the end on a beach does manage to be effective. The actors also generally deliver once again. Johnny Depp is entertaining as ever as Jack Sparrow, although he finds the screen time a bit split amongst the various other characters this outing. Depp seems to be having a good time in the role, and it's hard to not understand his public statements that he would be willing to go more rounds as the character. Rush is also effective as Barbossa and Keira Knightley shows a bit more energy than in the last entry, as does Orlando Bloom in the part of Will.

So, what began as a seemingly bad idea (a Disney theme park ride turned into a summer film) has concluded three films later with one of biggest displays of blockbuster film-making, in terms of scope, as has been seen in recent years. That the spectacle isn't quite in service of an appropriate amount of core material is disappointing, but Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is hardly a loss. It provides a decent amount of entertainment, buckets of eye candy and a good laugh here and there. While filmmakers should perhaps aspire to more, what they manage deliver isn't half bad. I suppose that might sound like damning with faint praise, but you just have to call them as you see them.
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