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"PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END"
(2007) (Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: Warring pirates attempt to band together to battle the British fleet that's determined to rid the world of their kind once and for all.
PLOT:
With word that Lord Cutler Beckett (TOM HOLLANDER) of the East India Trading Company is determined to rid the world of pirates once and for all, Captain Barbossa (GEOFFREY RUSH), Elizabeth Swann (KEIRA KNIGHTLEY) -- daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann (JONATHAN PRYCE) -- and a host of pirates including Joshamee Gibbs (KEVIN R. McNALLY) and outcasts Pintel (LEE ARENBERG) and Ragetti (MACKENZIE COOK) arrive in Singapore to meet Chinese pirate Captain Sao Feng (CHOW YUN-FAT).

Their hope is to gather the nine pirate lords of the brethren court to stop Beckett, an important task since the British fleet now contains the unbeatable pirate ship, The Flying Dutchman, once commanded by Davy Jones (BILL NIGHY) but now run by Commodore James Norrington (JACK DAVENPORT).

But Feng isn't happy since he's recently caught former blacksmith turned swashbuckler Will Turner (ORLANDO BLOOM) trying to steal navigational maps that will lead him to the end of the world. His desire isn't to defeat Beckett, but rather to gain access to a ship so that he can save his barnacle-covered, half-dead dad, Bootstrap Bill (STELLAN SKARSGÅRD).

After Beckett's forces interrupt the terse meeting, Barbossa and his crew gain control of a boat and similarly set sail for the edge of the world where they hope to rescue recently deceased renegade pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (JOHNNY DEPP) from the purgatory of Davy Jones' Locker. Eventually succeeding at that, and with voodoo priestess Tia Dalma (NAOMIE HARRIS) in tow, the pirates prepare for battle with Beckett and his mighty armada.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
For many a photographer, the holy grail of picture taking is an elusive atmospheric phenomenon known as the green flash. As its name would suggest, it's a burst of green light that occurs just at the completion of sundown where any body of water meets the horizon. It's such a rare event that handsome publishing bounties exist for any photographer who can capture the real thing, which is harder to prove in today's world where digital manipulation can make most anything look possible.

The green flash occurs in the third installment of the lucrative "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, but being a period action/adventure yarn, there are obviously no cameras to capture the event. While the film's writers include it to signify something to do with the passing of a soul from one worldly plane to another, it's more appropriate that it really stands for the dollar signs its makers have in their eyes.

That not only involves the expected substantial booty it should create at the box office, on home video and in all sorts of product tie-ins and such, but also in how much money must have been spent to create this handsome but ultimately empty cinematic experience.

If one is interested in a most visually-based bang for your buck bargain, this has to be at the top of the list. Featuring rich and detail heavy production and set designs, elaborate costumes, and enough wow-inducing visual effects to make Spidey green (hey, there's that color again) with envy, the film is one big piece of eye candy.

Yet, and as is usually the case with that sort of food, it's a bunch of empty calories, as the third time around this series' buffet table proves to be more of the same old, same old, but without an interesting enough plot to satiate us, let alone make us care. While diehard "Pirates" aficionados might groove on the continuation of the storylines from the terrific first film and its disappointing sequel, most everyone else will not be engaged on any level other than a purely visual one.

That's because the script, while incredibly simple in what occurs on a general A to Z level, is far too convoluted, complicated, and boring when it's showcasing out all of its small details in between those two points. Thus, the introduction of new characters and the story bits about pre-existing ones double and triple crossing each other don't amount to much. And at nearly 170 minutes in length, all of that quickly starts to drag on and on, and then on even some more.

Not surprisingly, many of the same complaints directed at the first sequel can be applied here as well (most of it missing the originality, spontaneity and surprise that made its predecessor so much fun), including the filmmakers continuing to fall prey to the "bigger must be better" mentality in terms of multiple storylines, characters, and big budget special effects.

There are so many superfluous moments that could and should have been cut that I ultimately lost count, but they're not hard to notice as they occur. That includes a prolonged sequence of Johnny Depp's fey pirate character being trapped in what's supposed to be Davy Jones' Locker (traditionally located at the bottom of the sea), but here comes off as a bad hallucinatory trip in the desert that makes one think of the actor doing something similar in the equally misguided "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

I suppose someone somewhere thought having multiple duplicate versions of Jack Sparrow interacting with and often killing each other was a good idea. Perhaps in smaller doses it was. As it stands, however, these scenes go on far too long and really don't do anything for the film. The fact that Depp now feels too familiar in the character's boots doesn't help matters, what with the fun originality of his performance having now worn a bit thin.

The same holds true for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly as the star-crossed lovers who bicker most of the time until giving new meaning to Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" toward the end of the film. It's fun to see Geoffrey Rush return from the first film (he appeared right at the tail end of the sequel), and Stellan Skarsgård and Bill Nighy do their best to emote under all of that makeup and/or post-production special effects.

Most of the rest of the original cast return and continue to play off their already established characteristics, but Chow Yun-Fat is pretty much wasted as a new pirate in the fold. The worst kept secret is Keith Richard's cameo as Sparrow's pirate father (based on Depp previously stating he modeled his character after the Rolling Stones guitarist), and while he's craggy enough to look the part, he doesn't really do anything for the pic other than standing out as a casting stunt.

Anytime anyone opens their mouth to express their feelings, explain their or others' plot motives, or anything else of the sort, the film stinks up the place like, well, what anyone would expect a crusty old pirate to smell. Yet, director Gore Verbinski and his team certainly know how to stage their action sequences, and it's nice to see most of them here return to the sea compared to many of the land-based ones in "Dead Man's Chest."

The concluding battle sequence -- that I didn't time but must hold the duration record for swashbuckling action and mayhem -- is nothing short of visually arresting and probably cost more to "stage" than the gross national product of many a third world country. Nevertheless, without a similarly successful touch at crafting a compelling, interesting, or engaging story, it comes off as nothing but the green flash of lots of moola spent to make even more pirate dough. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.




Reviewed May 21, 2007 / Posted May 25, 2007


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