Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Entertaining and long, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) spends little time in the Caribbean. Instead it spends at least some time in the seas of South Asia and more time in an unknown location where all the pirates live and where the nine pirate captains gather for a big confabulation. The film also spends time in a place called Davy Jones' Locker, which is apparently where pirates go when they are lost at sea but not killed, or something like that. It's a surreal sort of otherworld—like purgatory or one of the long queues at Disneyworld.

The film begins by picking up the plot created at the end of the second film: the rescue of Captain Jack Sparrow from Davy Jones locker. There are numerous subplots. There is the love interest between Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, and (apparently) between Sparrow and Swann. There is Davy Jones' many tentacled quest for control of the seven seas. There is Turner's quest to rescue his father from the clutches of Davy Jones. There is the beating heart of Davy Jones kept in a chest in the possession of the British navy. The British navy is the enemy in the film. There is the resistance of eight of the nine pirate captains to the efforts of Davy Jones to take them over. And there is Calypso, trapped in her own body. She is a pirate goddess, and when the pirates and the British conflict comes to a crisis, she is released to wreak meteorological havoc that basically comes to naught. These plot lines intertwine and in the end combine together in a way that is satisfying and that makes no sense whatsoever.

All the characters in this film go through the same motions they went through in the first two films. Johnny Depp continues to be whacky and swaggering as Sparrow. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley remain the romantic young love interests in this film. Geoffrey Rush is great as Sparrow's rival pirate captain Barbossa. As good as these actors are in their parts, they were also good in the two earlier films, and this one doesn't get us anywhere new.

The Pirates of the Caribbean films are a fantasy series. The first film sets up a world that functions according to a particular set of rules involving the fact that the pirates on Sparrow's ship the Black
Pearl are ghosts—which is what they are on the Disneyworld ride that inspired the film. During the day the pirates appear to be real, but in moonlight at night their ghoulish nature comes clear. The later films basically abandon this convention, and the third one makes little reference to it at all, except for the fact that the men on Davy Jones' ship are in some sort of supernatural state of being. My point is that the first film sets up a set of rules which the latter two films either break or ignore.

Although I found the first film entertaining, I was disappointed that it made the pirates into ghouls. The film would have been more fun had they been real.

Keith Richards makes a brief if murky appearance as a senior pirate captain in the third film. His appearance is fitting since Johnny Depp supposedly modeled his character Jack Sparrow on Richards. However, it's difficult to recognize Richards as Richards. He simply seems a bit uncomfortable.

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