Writers: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Cast: Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann), Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), Geoffrey Rush (Barbossa), Bill Nighy (Davey Jones), Chow Yun Fat (Captain Sao Feng), Tom Hollander (Lord Cutler Beckett), Naomie Harris (Tia Dalma), Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill), Kevin McNally (Mr Gibbs), Jack Davenport (James Norrington), Lee Arenberg (Pintel), Jonathan Pryce (Weatherby Swann), Mackenzie Crook (Ragetti) & Keith Richards (Captain Teague)
After the bloated, sprawling, nonsensical mess of Dead Man's Chest, I was expecting nothing more than a continuation with World's End -- the last film in Pirates' flawed decision to stretch itself into a trilogy. I mainly got what I expected, although this finale is fortunately much easier to follow and the direction is a lot clearer...
Events kick off in Shanghai, with newly-resurrected Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) taking plucky Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and boyish Will (Orlando Bloom) to meet Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), and ask the Chinese pirate to give them his map to World's End -- so they can rescue Captain Jack (Johnny Depp), who is trapped in the bizarre limbo dimension of Davey Jones' locker.
Back at sea, short-arse twit Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander), now in possession of Davey Jones' heart, and thus able to control the Flying Dutchman, commands squid-face Captain Davey Jones (Bill Nighy) to destroy his fellow pirates...
Worryingly, it takes half an hour for Jack Sparrow to make his entrance in the film, although when he does you get 10 Jacks for the price of 1 -- as Jack's afterlife consists of him captaining a ship of his own clones in the middle of a desert.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End (hereafter Pirates 3) is certainly imaginative and has the visual clout to make it a feast for the eyes. I particularly liked the way you must enter/exit Davey Jones' locker, as it's a magical idea that works brilliantly on-screen.
You can't really fault this film technically, as it achieves a scope and majesty that few blockbusters have the skill to reach, without any telltale signs of budget-stretching anywhere (well, they did spend $300 million!) For pure spectacle alone, Pirates 3 delivers in spades.
But the story remains maddeningly strained and daft, while the comedy that has underpinned the trilogy becomes less amusing. Depp's celebrated performance certainly keeps things interesting, but the charm of Cap'n Jack has dissipated over time. He was an unpredicted scene-stealer in Pirates 1, a sporadically entertaining clown in Pirates 2, and now just has to settle for a telescope/manhood gag and (most bizarrely) chatting to miniature versions of himself tucked away in his beard!
Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom continue their maudlin romance, in-between stupid plot-decisions to temporarily make Will ally himself with the baddies, and have Elizabeth become a very unlikely "King Of The Pirates". That said, their romantic storyline is the only plot that actually reaches a satisfying conclusion, while the others just screech into a distended whirlpool finale and vanish down the plughole...
Perhaps the biggest problem with the Pirates sequels (beyond their haphazard scripts and ridiculous running times) is that the sense of team spirit is missing. I know we're dealing with thieves and pirates in the main cast -- but isn't their honour amongst thieves? It's one thing to keep characters unpredictable, but there's so much selfishness and double-crossing, I find it difficult to find any empathy for these people...
Elizabeth "killed" Jack in Pirates 2, Barbossa was an usurped villain in the original film, Will joins Cutler's men at one point, Norrington (a superfluous Jack Davenport) changes allegiance willy-nilly, Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) turns nasty for no discernible reason, and clichéd Caribbean witch Tia (Naomie Harris) is revealed to be a vengeful goddess. Even when the pirates of the world converge on Shipwreck Cove to mount a mass offensive against Cutler's armada, it all basically boils down to a three-way against Jack, Jones and Cutler.
Overall, while Pirates 3 is definitely an improvement on its predecessor, it's still an overlong third act that tries to hide its shambolic script and irritating characters behind a cavalcade of amazing special-effects. It'll pass the time, and there are a few moments to savour; but it's a workout for the eyes, not the brain.
By the time the denouement teases us at what a fourth adventure might have in store, I was about ready to jump ship...
Walt Disney Pictures
Budget: $300 million