Fun and frustrating in nearly equal parts, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World s End uses a tone much darker than its predecessors in the trilogy as it ties together several story lines but leaves new questions.
The path to that resolution runs nearly three hours, filled with overly long fight scenes and introductions to lots of people in funny clothes who have no purpose other than to show us, well, lots of people in funny clothes.
There is indeed a plot, convoluted though it may be.
Basically, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and Tia Dalma (Naomi Harris), a voodoo priestess, have set out to rescue Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is being held prisoner by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), the part-man, part-sea creature who rules the ocean s depths and strikes terror in the hearts of seamen.
Each of the rescuers has a self-serving reason for wanting Jack back, and as those reasons become apparent, the movie becomes less of a lark (dare I even say a bit serious?), although there are plenty of grins to be found.
The action starts in Singapore, where our heroes have traveled to negotiate with the pirate lord Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) for ancient charts that presumably will lead them to Davy Jones Locker. If Sao Feng doesn t want to negotiate like a reasonable man, well, there are other ways to get him to cooperate.
Sao Feng agrees, and our heroes head off to World s End with the charts.
Meanwhile, the ambitious Lord Cutler Beckett is determined to extend the East India Trading Co. s vast influence from Asia to the Caribbean. To do this, he must make the seas safe for trade. He cuts a deal with Sao Feng to hunt down Barbossa. He ruthlessly hangs anyone whom he suspects of having anything to do with piracy, and when they re all gone, he forces Davy Jones and his feared ship, the Flying Dutchman, to hunt down other pirates.
Cutler, you see, is in possession of Jones beating heart, and if he chooses to destroy that heart, it will mean the end of Jones.
So we have Barbossa hunting Jack, Sao Feng hunting Barbossa, and Davy Jones hunting everyone.
Trust no one. Cutler, Davy Jones, and Jack are adept double-crossers, but other characters are learning quickly.
There s plenty of fun in At World s End, whether it s Depp s buffoonish prancing, Rush s trademark Arrgh (sad to say, I only heard it once), or the antics of Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook as inept pirate buddies Pintel and Ragetti (the one who keeps losing his wooden eyeball).
At World s End is also packed with just about everyone who appeared in the first two episodes of the trilogy, The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man s Chest, from Jonathan Pryce as Elizabeth s father to Stellan Skarsgard as Will s father, from Jack Davenport as Norrington, Elizabeth s original fiancee, to Dermot Keaney as Maccus, the hammer-headed first mate of the Flying Dutchman.
Despite everything that s familiar, there are surprises in At World s End, at least one of which provided a rather elegant denouement to a key plot line. (Some of the solutions aren t viewer-friendly, but I can t deny they work.)
Yes, it s long (I did look at my watch at least twice, generally during a fight scene), but fans of the trilogy are bidding farewell to characters we have come to love, so a little bloat is understandable.
By the way, I ve been told that there s a sort of an epilogue midway through the extensive credits, but I left too early to see it.
Contact Nanciann Cherry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6130.