guppy's film reviews

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Year: 2007
Director: Gore Verbinski
Notable Actors: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce
Score: B-
Summary: Entertaining, yet sloppy.

Okay, here's the short version that everyone is really waiting to read: yes, the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie is much better than the second one.

The slightly longer summation is this. Pirates 3 is an entertaining film, but it's got problems. Go see it and be entertained, but don't expect a masterpiece. I think that's what people were expecting, really, so not such a big deal there. It's difficult to get into a plot summary without spoiling the previous films, so suffice it to say that the film deals with the loose ends left in the previous installment.

Pirates 3 picks up a little while after the previous installment ends, opening with an unnecessary and somewhat awkward introductory sequence, the upshot of which is that the authorities are giving the pirates quite a lot of trouble and that the pirates need to do something if they would like to continue to exist. The message is important to the plot, but it's not delivered terribly well.

After that, everything gets moving, and I mean fast. There's a lot to keep track of in Pirates 3, and if you don't pay attention you're going to miss tons of important details. Also, the film was shot at the same time as the previous installment, and it seems as though the writers forgot that we wouldn't be seeing them the same way. It's been a little while since I saw Pirates 2, and I didn't remember a whole bunch of important things that apparently happened near the end of that movie. Pirates 3 can't really stand on its own; it needs the context of the other two films to make any sense at all.

That's one side of the problem. The other is exactly the opposite: in addition to relying too heavily on the previous films, it introduces several elements that weren't mentioned at all in the first two movies, which really serves to blindside the viewer. It's odd that we've never heard anything about these elements -- or worse, that things that weren't even remotely touched upon about our characters in the preceding stories are placed front-and-center here. There's even an argument to be made that there's some revisionism at work, and you need to be willing to ignore that.

I'm not sure why some of these new elements and revisions exist. Most of them are unreasonable, and some are barely even used. It's easy to say that they needed to fill screen time, but at 168 minutes, the film wouldn't have suffered from some trimming down.

Acting-wise, of course, Depp is on top. Rush is great as well. Bloom is approximately on par with the preceding films, but nothing special -- he's done better elsewhere. I was pleasantly surprised to find that -- and I realize this is a minority opinion -- Keira Knightley turned in a better performance than her previous two Pirates outings; perhaps that's just improved dialogue speaking, but I liked her in this one, and I'm not normally a Knightley fan. Most of the rest of the cast does a fine job as well -- it's the charismatic and colorful cast of characters that really give the Pirates films their charm and personality, and that's in full effect here.

Readers may wonder why, given the problems I noted, I didn't rate Pirates 3 more harshly. I didn't do that because, despite all its flaws, it's entertaining, and that's what we're really here for. It's based on a Disney ride, for Pete's sake. How deep did you really expect it to be?

We've all seen the first two Pirates films, so you may as well finish up the story and go to see it. It's even a decent film, and I expect you'll enjoy it, as I did. But it still doesn't live up to the bar set by the first film.


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