Running Time: 168 minutes
Rated: Rated M (moderate violence, supernatural scenes).
This film takes up shortly after where the last one left off. It's the mid 17th Century, and the age of piracy is nearing its close. Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Company has gained control of the terrifying ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman, and its malevolent, vengeful captain, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). The Dutchman now roams the seven seas, unstoppable, destroying pirate ships without mercy, under the command of Admiral Norrington (Jack Davenport).
Will Turner (Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) and Captain Barbossa (Rush) embark on a desperate quest to gather the Nine Lords of the Brethren Court, in a desperate attempt to defeat Beckett.
But one of the Lords is missing, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp). He is trapped in Davy Jones Locker, thanks to his encounter with the monster Kraken in the last film.
In an increasingly shaky alliance, our heroes, travel to dangerous, exotic Singapore and confront Chinese pirate Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) to gain charts, and a ship, that will taken off to world's end, to rescue Jack.
After Jack is rescued, the gathering of the Brethren Court calls on the Sea Goddess Calypso, imprisoned in human form, to come to their aid in the fight against Beckett and Davy Jones.
As betrayal piles upon betrayal, it becomes clear that Jack, Will, Elisabeth, Sao Feng, and Barbossa each have their own agenda, and no one can be trusted. Yet each must choose a side in the titanic showdown that could eliminate the freedom-loving pirates from the seven seas forever.
Sequels are famous for two things: never being as good as the original; and making 30
less money. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 fulfilled the first rule, but not the second. That film joined Titanic and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in making over $1billion. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is better than the second in the series and will probably do as well, if not better.
It has all the trade marks we have come to enjoy - a self-deprecating script, state of the art special effects, and outstanding stunts, cinematography, art direction and costumes. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End has a loud sound track and a huge music score. This is one film that needs the biggest screen you can find.
That said, the story here is unnecessarily complex and some of the dialogue is difficult to understand. At 168 minutes, it is 25 minutes longer the original and 18 minutes longer than its immediate predecessor. Not that fans will care, but these films are starting to get bloated.
Of some concern to parents will be the level of violence in it. The opening scene of the hanging of the pirates (including a child) is especially tough, but there are a few other confronting moments as well. Be warned.
The values in it are a curious mix of the good guys being bad guys up against bad guys who are good at heart. The mantra of the film is the pirates' creed, "Take what you can, and give nothing back', which would be appalling except that these pirates don't live it out. They end up being as new-age and sensitive as pirates get.
For historians it will be annoying that the early action is set in Singapore, which did not exist in the 17th Century, but was founded and named as such by Sir Stamford Raffles of the East India Company in 1819.
Australians and New Zealanders will recognise the East India Company's ship. It is called "Endeavour'. This could make for an interesting rewriting of history. That this ship, after getting home from chasing pirates, was purchased by the Royal Navy and given to Lieutenant Cook for his jaunt out of Plymouth on Aug. 26, 1768. I don't think so.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a romp and a parody of all the swashbuckling films you have ever seen. If you remember that this trilogy started life as an amusement park attraction, then this is the level of seriousness we are intended to invest in it. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
One down side is that there is a further scene in the film after the credits. This is a cheap and annoying ploy to get us to watch pages of names for over ten minutes to set up the fourth film. And it is isn't worth it. Trust me, as soon as the credits roll, you can confidently beat a hasty retreat.
Buena Vista International
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.