I saw "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" during their Thursday evening previews and at about the two hour mark my butt started to get really sore, but with almost another hour, my butt had a ways to go. The next day, I was telling a co-worker how I loved the first film, really enjoyed the second and absolutely hated the third installment. He remarked "Sounds just like "The Matrix" films." And this analogy is incredibly apt.
I can't adequately tell you how abysmal this third installment of the series is.
The East India Trading Company has all but declared war on the Pirates. In order to fight back, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) sneak into a pirate's lair in Singapore. They are trying to set-up a meeting with Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat) to form an alliance with him; they need a map he has to navigate to World's End, to help Captain Jack Sparrow escape from Davy Jone's Locker. When they arrive, they find Sao Feng has already captured Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), their back up in case things go wrong. They manage to escape because the Trading Company ambushes them, causing pandemonium. Soon, they are traveling through the artic and eventually arrive at World's End. During his time in Davy Jone's Locker, Sparrow has gone slightly mad, and doesn't completely believe Elizabeth, Will, Barbossa and the rest of the crew are rescuing him. They eventually make it back to the normal world and make their way to Shipwreck Cove to attend a meeting of all of the pirate lords; each of the lords must grant their consent to battle the Trading Company. After many problems, they eventually battle the evil Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who is under the evil Brit's control.
In a way, it is even more disappointing that "At World's End" is so bad because all of the people who helped make the first two films so good have returned to make the third. This is another case of excessive excess on the director's part, much like "Spiderman 3". Based on the success of the first two films, director Gore Verbinski could pretty much write a blank check and spend as much as he wanted to. And he has spent a lot of money, on production design, special effects and set pieces. These are all very impressive.
But because the first two films could be categorized as "popcorn films", Verbinski seems determined to use this film to explain everything about the other two, to make them more meaningful, to 'legitimize' the series. This means, we have many, many, many scenes of people talking. Explaining various mythologies (which really don't make sense), various character's connections to one another, what there plans are, and so on and so forth. There is a lot of time spent talking in this film, and it really leaves more questions than we had in the first place. I don't know about you, but the last thing I want in a film about pirates is a lot of talking. I want action. Sword fights, battles, cannon fire and more. "World's End" includes these elements, but it almost seems to be an afterthought.
Johnny Depp is in basically half of the film. Jack Sparrow was banished to Davy Jone's locker at the end of the second film, so he has to spend some time there and we have to wait for him to be rescued. As Elizabeth, Will and Barbossa go about this, we go through long stretches of time when his character is absent from the screen. This would be fine, but Sparrow is the center of the film, and the most interesting character of the lot.
When you have a character like Jack Sparrow, who has become so popular, you really want to spend as much time with him as possible. So when "At World's End" only uses their most popular character in approximately half of the film, half of a very long film, you are left wanting more. Johnny Depp has created such an interesting, fun and exciting character why would we wait so long to rejoin his adventures? Why would the filmmakers take so much of the film's time away from him? It just doesn't make sense.
The first time we see Sparrow, he is still trapped in Davy Jone's Locker, which seems to be a desert. And the Black Pearl is marooned with him. Because he is alone, he seems to be going a bit batty. He begins talking to himself, having conversations with many different versions of himself. And even this becomes a bit trying on our patience. All of the Sparrows don't do anything but talk to one another. A couple act like his conscience, sitting on each of the real Sparrow's shoulders, telling him to do both good and bad things.
Keira Knightley is a good actress, but she is just not very good in this film. There are too many moments when she is forced to shout to be heard and this doesn't allow her to emote or further define her character. A plot twist happens about half way through and you begin to hold out some hope, perhaps this will take the film in an interesting direction. But not enough is done with it and it simply seems like an excuse to waste more of our time.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Orlando Bloom is not a good actor. Sure, he is handsome as hell, but he can't act. So, when so many scenes depend on his acting ability, there is a problem. We just never get engaged in his character, or the trials he is put through. And because of that, we never become invested in the adventure of this film. Why, oh why, must he continue to ruin films? Join the campaign. STOP ORLANDO BLOOM.
Because so much of the film is dependent on Elizabeth and Will, much of "Pirates 3" falls flat. There are many scenes with one or both when we are supposed to listen to them talk about their characters, or their relationships to one another. Is Elizabeth in love with Jack? Why didn't she tell Will this? Why didn't she tell Will that? Is Will a trader? A lot of screen time is devoted to these two actors and they are as boring as plain white toast. It would be different if anything they said made sense or contributed to the overall strength of the story. Will shouts a marriage proposal to Elizabeth during the middle of a battle. Romantic isn't it? Because the filmmakers don't give it any weight, why should we? It almost seems like an afterthought; "Oh, we have to continue this romantic storyline better stick it in here…"
Throughout the movie, Sparrow, Will and Elizabeth seem to form alliances with one another, against one another, and in various groups. It is, apparently, all part of a master plan, but the plan is lost on me.
When I initially saw Chow Yun Fat had been added to the cast of the third installment, my interest was piqued. I am a huge fan of the actor and was excited to see he would be part of the battles and spectacular action. Wrong. Chow Yun Fat is only in about 10 minutes of the film and participates in only one short action scene. The rest of his time on screen? He talks, much like the other characters.
Throughout the film, the story seems to change direction many times. At one point, Will is working against everyone. At another point, Sparrow seems to have formed an alliance with the East India Trading Company. At another, Elizabeth seems to have worked out a deal. But none of this makes sense. Everyone spends so much time talking. Too much time talking. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. The one benefit of all of this talking is that we have time to study the production design. Considerable time and money was spent on creating the various environments in the film; the Captain's stateroom on the East India Trading Company's vessel, the Singapore dockyards, the Chinese Junk traveling through a frozen tundra, the Black Pearl marooned on the sand of Davy Jone's Locker. All of it looks beautiful. But of course, that isn't enough to hold our attention and make a Summer Popcorn film interesting.
This is the heart of the problem. "Pirates of the Caribbean" is designed to be the ultimate Summer Popcorn film. Let it be just that. Because the films have been so successful, it seems as though Verbinski and the writers have tried to legitimize the whole thing by adding a lot of story and dialogue. Did they think it would be a more enjoyable film if we sit and watch the characters talk for almost two hours? Really, there is only about 45 minutes of action. It seems like they are trying to create the Masterpiece Theater version of "Pirates of the Caribbean". Bad decision. It's a popcorn film. Embrace it, don't shun it.