With Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the (at the time) Pirates trilogy came to an end with a near three hour long finale. I remember looking forward to seeing the film in theater as a kid. While most critics thought it was rather bad, I really enjoyed it. Rewatching it now as an adult is always a bit nerve racking since you might change your opinion on some of your childhood favorites. To my dismay At World’s End is at times an entertaining watch, but suffers immensely from a too ambitious screenplay that stuffs a lot of things in but gives nothing weight. It is overall a pretty boring film with a few memorable moments sprinkled throughout.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Written by Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio
Stars: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy
Released: 25 May 2007
Running time: 2h 49min
No spoilers to be found here!
Taking place shortly after the end of Dead Man’s Chest, the remaining crew of the Black Pearl as well as Barbossa make their way to Singapore. There they will search for the map that will lead them to the World’s End and Jack Sparrow. After some things happen, all our main characters have to band together with the eight pirate lords in order to stand up against Lord Cutler Beckett and Davy Jones.
Following the trend from its predecessor, At World’s End continues to stuff more storylines and characters into its narrative, but this time it’s nearly bursting at the seams. However, I do always start with the good parts of the film, even though that could be quite hard with this one. The first third of the film is all about finding the World’s End and rescuing Jack Sparrow. This is a storyline that hasn’t really been explored in the earlier films, investigating the unknown on a quest. I was intrigued by the mystery of it all and Davy Jones locker itself is a rather strange place with some wonderfully bizarre scenes. This is all new territory for the franchise and I’m thrilled they went this far with the whole “a world beyond our own” – concept, well done there.
This movie also features a massive cast, the biggest one yet. Johnny Depp is back as Jack Sparrow and fantastic as usual. He gets to do some new things in the film, but is otherwise largely the same. Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa, but is in this film more of an anti-hero than a straight up villain. This means we have Jack and Barbossa on the same ship for a big part of the film, which leads to some rather entertaining segments.
Will and Elisabeth are back as well, once again portrayed by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. I said in my Dead Man’s Chest review that I thought it felt a bit out of place for them to go back to the life of a pirate. In this film however, they are already trapped in this world and it therefor makes a bit more sense. Elisabeth had some big development last time around does feel more at home with the crew now. But her character develops even more here, which in the end makes her a pretty interesting person. Will is also a bit different, as if he matured a bit since the last film, which really doesn’t make any sense since this takes place pretty soon after the end of Dead Man’s Chest. It feels like he is hiding a secret agenda, which also starts to create a divide between him and Elisabeth. This new side of him does make him more interesting, as he is now a bit deeper than simply “the good guy”.
Lord Cutler Beckett and Davy Jones team up (not really) and are the main antagonists of the film. Beckett had a part in Dead Man’s Chest, but he was used sparingly and had no big scenes, they saved it all for this one. As to match the scope of the pirates, Beckett brings out all his assets as he tries to wage a war on them. He is ruthless and unsympathetic, which is mostly thanks to an excellent portrayal by Tom Hollander. But other than that, there really isn’t that much of a character behind this man. Granted, we don’t get to see that much of him and maybe he simply is very professional. I would have liked a bit more depth from him, but this isn’t a big issue. For the limited amount of time he is in the film, I think Beckett comes of as an effective villain.
In Dead Man’s Chest, Davy Jones was doing his own thing, but in At World’s End, he is forced to do the bidding of Beckett. This in turn makes him an even more angry character who no longer has any respect for what he is doing. He is a deeply disturbed man who has now lost the last thing he valued, his free will. In Dead Man’s Chest he was a bad person for sure, but there he still had a sense of humor (albeit a dark one). In At World’s End he has nothing left and does rather drastic things without really thinking about it. Bill Nighy is once again fantastic and extremely interesting to watch, especially as the character has taken a turn for the worse. It is very fun to watch Nighy’s portrayal of a bad man gone even more bad. In short, two solid villains.
There are a lot of other characters in the film, some old, some new, but most of them are interesting and unique. This makes for quite a big ensemble of characters and gives the film a feeling of grandness and scope, which I think it was going for.
I said in my review for Dead Man’s Chest that I thought it was the action pinnacle of the franchise and I still stand by that. At World’s End doesn’t quite live up to that standard, but there are still some genuinely great action set pieces, especially that ending climax. It incorporates most of the main characters in an epic final showdown. This one set piece is probably the best in the whole series, it’s very long and features things you wanted to see from the very first film (Jack and Davy Jones fencing amidst the sails during a massive storm!) and ends the movie on a high note.
And lastly, the music is amazing as always and fits the movie very well. However, there aren’t a lot of new tracks in the film, most of them are either reused songs or remixes. They are all still great, but I would have liked to see more original songs from Hans Zimmer.
However, all other aspects of the movie are rather lacking. This movie continues the trend of making the Pirates series more like serious epics and less as care-free adventures. This was prevalent in Dead Man’s Chest, but they take it to another level in At World’s End. The film opens with a slow scene showing pirates getting hanged by Beckett, including a little child. The movie then beats it over our heads about how much the English soldiers are threatening to kill off all the pirates. Then, all pirates lords have to meet in order to plan out a final stand. This is something from a Lord of the Rings film and feels strange for this franchise, especially if you are fresh from watching the first one. But as I said in my Dead Man’s Chest review, if you want to change up your tone for something other, feel free. However, when you do that, you can’t keep the old half-serious things from the first films. This was my major problem with Dead Man’s Chest, they tried to make it so serious but still had a ton of unrealistic action scenes. This isn’t as much an issue in At World’s End, mainly because the film is pretty strict with it’s tone. As said before, there are only a few action scenes in the film and they aren’t as jolly as the previous ones. They still break the tone a bit, but they are a better fit for the tone they were going for.
However, from the more consistent tone comes another, bigger problem. This film is boring. It’s an almost three hour film with a lot of different plots and characters and a lot less action compared to the films before. They tried to stuff so many things into the film that nothing rarely gets a chance to breath. Some good examples of this is Sao Feng, who is introduced early on as an important characters. He gets a few more scenes and is then quickly killed of, making me feel as if he was entirely unnecessary. Another is the amount of time the movie builds up the eight pirate lords. They all show up for a last fight, but when the battle actually starts, they just sit and watch from afar, immediately destroying whatever sense of comradery between the pirates. There are plenty more examples of this and I think I now why this is.
This movie should have been divided into two films, making a trilogy with Dead Man’s Chest. They try to add so many things in the film but never have the time to actually make us care for them, which makes the whole thing feel like a mess after a while. Another example of this is the Kraken, one of my favorite things from Dead Man’s Chest. This time around, it has been killed off before the start of the film. They probably didn’t have the time to add more Kraken scenes, but this made me very disappointed. In short, the biggest problem with At World’s End is that they tried to fit too much in it, even for a three hour film. They really want to create of big epic pirate drama, and if they had gotten another film, that might have worked out. But as it stands now, At World’s End is a long and mostly boring film thanks to a relative slow pace and far to many things shoved in that we never get the time to actually care for.
Another small nitpick is the comedy in the film. It is the same kind of jokes used in the previous films, but somehow they only stick out as a sore thumb in this one. I think a lot of them simply are dumb jokes that aren’t funny, but they also go against the more serious tone that actually kind of works in the film. I mostly cringed when watching these ones and I just didn’t laugh at any of them.
At World’s End continues the trend from Dead Man’s Chest of making the Pirates series more dark and serious. While that was a major problem for me in that film, it actually works pretty well in this one. The film manages to pull of a more serious tone thanks to less over-the-top action scenes and focuses more on the serious plot and characters. Our old characters are back and still pretty much the same, but are still fun to follow. The entire concept of a “World beyond our own” is well implemented and I like the surreal nature of some of it’s scenes. The music is still good and the ending set pieces is a great way to end the movie and probably the best action scene in the franchise.
At World’s End is also, thanks to the more serious tone, a pretty boring movie. They shove in a lot of plots and characters that never get the chance to breath and is in the end kind of forgettable. I struggle to remember any scenes that aren’t action or call backs from earlier movies and that isn’t the thing you should say about Pirates of the Caribbean. In the end, if they had two movies to tell this story in, it could have worked. But as we have it now, this is the most boring film of the franchise so far and I really don’t have any desire to go back to it again (except for the ending action scene). This movie disappointed audiences and critics alike, and I am one of them. We are not done however, as we have one more film in the franchise to get through, maybe I will look back fondly at At World’s End when watching that one.
Cover image source: blogspot.com