Combustible Celluloid
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With: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Kevin R. McNally, David Bailie, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Chow Yun-Fat, Martin Klebba, David Schofield, Lauren Maher, Dermot Keaney, Clive Ashborn, Winston Ellis, Christopher Adamson, Andy Beckwith, Jonathan Linsley, Keith Richards, Ghassan Massoud, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Dominic Scott Kay, Vanessa Branch, Reggie Lee, Marshall Manesh, Angus Barnett, Giles New, Takayo Fischer, Marcel Iures, Sergio Calderon, James Lancaster, Toru Tanaka Jr., Edwin Habacon, Albert 'Sumo' Lee, Tyler Tuione, Larry Leong, Greg Ellis, Brendyn Bell, Tse Ho-Kwan, Peter Donald Badalamenti II, Marc Joseph, Chris Symonds, Michael Symonds, Humberto Fernandez Tristan, Omid Djalili
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images
Running Time: 168
Date: 05/19/2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Days of Arrrrr Lives

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl vastly exceeded expectations. Last summer the sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest came far short of them. And so, showing up to the third movie, I expected nothing more than the law of diminishing sequels. At World's End would surely be even worse than the soulless, misguided, annoying second film. But, somehow, by the end I was not annoyed, and I did not feel gypped. That's not exactly enthusiastic praise, but it's better than the alternative. The new movie feels a bit more confident and less spastic. It rolls on for nearly three hours, and it's as convoluted as a tangled fishing net, but it's possible to simply ride along -- as if bobbing on waves -- and come out feeling fine.

Our hero Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) -- the only reason to see the film -- spends the first 45 minutes of the film offscreen, trapped in Davy Jones's Locker. But most of the rest of the characters mount an impossible rescue mission to pull him back out. From there, we get half a dozen double-crosses, characters switching alliances and characters hopping around from ship to ship. (Some of this was explained in the last film, but I was so bored during the last film that I forgot everything in it.) There's a Pirate Council, and at some point someone decides that they should try and revive the dormant goddess Calypso, but I'm not sure why. In any case, here's the roll call: Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Norrington (Jack Davenport), Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-fat), the tentacle-faced Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), Governor Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce) and Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), plus any number of assorted character actors, comic sidekicks and hangers-on. It all comes down to everyone versus bad guy Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), who acts as an all-purpose bully, white devil and Republican. At one point Elizabeth chastises Norrington for choosing the wrong side, and Norrington looks completely baffled as to which side she's talking about; I can't blame him.

The final hour is an old-fashioned ship-to-ship battle sequence, right out of an Errol Flynn movie, with pirates swinging back and forth on ropes, firing cannons and clanging swords at each other. The twist here is that the two ships are swirling around and around near the center of a maelstrom. Happily director Gore Verbinski keeps all this clean and light, with a minimum of jagged shooting and cutting. It's as if he had better planned his time on this third film; there's less of a frenzied feel. The characters are better balanced this time around as well. In my review of the last film I complained that there was too much Orlando Bloom and not enough Johnny Depp. Verbinski has apparently heard this common gripe, and so now we get multiple images of Depp; while stranded in The Locker, he imagines an entire crew made up of himself. Depp is also faced with his own inspiration: none other than Keith Richards turns up as en elder pirate. Knightley is more luminous and commanding this time around, and Bloom happily recedes more into the background. If only series newcomer Chow Yun-fat had more to do. He gets to wear some nasty scars, but that's about it.

As with any blockbuster, talk of #4 has begun even before this one has opened in theaters. If they do, I hope they scrap the entire complex cast and start fresh with Jack Sparrow, a few new sidekicks, some new adventures, a smaller budget and a shorter running time. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

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