“Gentlemen, I wash my hands of this weirdness.”
There are some films which benefit multiple viewings because of the sheer amount of detail in them. These films throw names and exposition at you, are full of twisting plots and betrayals. Often the films are so dense you feel like you need the Wiki open just to keep track of everything. At World’s End is definitely one of these films. I wasn’t keen on it when I first saw it but now, a few viewings later, I really like it. I remember thinking it was overstuffed with plots and twists and it is, it really is. But it’s not half bad at all.
Picking up with the search for Jack that began at the end of the previous film, the opening of At World’s End finds the gang in Singapore to meet a Pirate Lord Sao Feng (played by the amazing Chow-Yun Fat). This is where we first find out about the pirate brethren, a group made of nine Pirate Lords who are the greatest pirates on the seven seas. Newly resurrected Barbossa and the crew are trying to get them all to meet, so they can work together to defeat Beckett and Davy Jones. Jack is a Pirate Lord so they need to save him too, along the way. Once together the Lords can release the sea goddess Calypso from her human form, in which the previous lords trapped her years earlier, so they can defeat Jones and Beckett. Following? Don’t worry if you’re not, it’s a very complicated plot. Through in all the lore and backstory the film gives you about Davy Jones and Calypso and you have a lot of details to remember. See what I meant about multiple rewatches?
To the film’s credit, it doesn’t just dump this information all at once. It’s spread over the runtime of the film, and what a runtime it is. The film is an insane 168 minutes long, which is longer than the two previous films which already received criticism for being too long. As you can guess, a lot of critics were less than enthusiastic about this. But I think that in this film the longer runtime is deserved. It’s the end of an epic trilogy with a lot of plots to wrap up, and a satisfying conclusion to deliver, and I think it does this quite well. With the ending they wrap up the current story, but leave plenty of options open for future adventures. And the plot threads from previous films are continued and tied up nicely, for the most part. The way they bring Jack back is fun, and very surreal. The scenes in the mystical Locker might have been annoying or boring, but Johnny Depp and some stellar direction carry it. After being brought back in the cliff-hanger at the end of the second film Barbossa is right at home with the cast once again. A plot thread that doesn’t work is the Elizabeth/Will story. This film starts with Elizabeth still lying to Will about kissing Jack. It’s a bit annoying, as this trope is never that much fun to watch. But it is resolved about halfway in and the film is even stronger once Will and Elizabeth actually like each other again.
The design in these films have always been outstanding, but nothing looks quite as alive as Singapore at the beginning of the film. It’s populated with so many props and items and characters that it feels so hectic and real. The rest of the film is the same, from the ships to the costumes, it’s all beautiful. The money on this movie was well spent. This extends to the CGI which just might be some of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s blended together with the real elements of the film so much that you can’t even see the difference. The standout for me is when Beckett is walking through his ship as it is slowly being blown to pieces. I have no idea how they did it (and almost don’t want to know, or risk killing the magic), and even now almost 10 years later it’s one of the coolest things ever.
One thing these films have been praised for is the fight choreography and this film turns it up another notch. I’ve mentioned how director Gore Verbinski likes to have fights whilst people are balancing on things (the wheel in the second film or the train in The Lone Ranger) and in At World’s End he goes for broke. The final fight see’s Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow fighting whilst stood on the mast of The Flying Dutchman as it circles a giant maelstrom. It is some of the most striking imagery I’ve seen and how Verbinski handles it all is beyond me. There are so many things happening at once, fights going on simultaneously and briefly interacting. It’s part excellent action and part well-choreographed slapstick, all happening at the same time. And all the twists and turns and betrayals come back at the end, as every single character has their own motivations. To see all of this wrapped up neatly is immensely satisfying.
It will come as no surprise to hear that the performances are great in the film, after all the characters have had two previous films to settle into the roles. It’s especially nice to have Geoffrey Rush back as Barbossa, he camps it up almost as much as Bill Nighy as Davy Jones. Depp is great to, managing to make scenes in which there are multiple Jack Sparrow’s entertaining, rather than annoying. I really like Keira Knightley in At World’s End. She’s always been a pretty strong character but she takes the cake in this one by becoming Pirate King. She sells it too, seeming as surprised as the audience at her new role, but giving badass speeches when the film calls for it.
A problem with the world that they’ve built in this film is with the lore. The world has it’s own rules, like the rule that The Dutchman must always have a captain, or that the he must spend 10 years on the ship and one day on land. But there is argument over these rules online, the writers could have made them clearer. Is the captain of the Dutchman stuck on there for eternity, or can he leave after ten? Does he have to cut his heart out? If so does he die after ten years? The wiki and the merchandise for the film even seems confused on it. With reports that Will is returning for the next film, we might get an answer.
At World’s End is definitely the messiest of the trilogy. It’s got too many plots and twists and it’s difficult to care about every single one. As a finale however, it’s great. It wraps everything up in a climatic way and everything falls into place by the time the credits roll. The final hour is possibly the best part of the entire Pirates of the Caribbean series and the film is worth watching for that alone. Most of all you get the feeling you will miss these characters, and what more could you want?
Though you won’t have to miss Captain Jack Sparrow for long, he’s back in On Stranger Tides!