A long, labored, needlessly complicated adventure, Gore Verbinski´s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End has all the earmarks of an epic pirate flick but sorely lacks the sense of breezy fun found in its two predecessors.
Also gone is most of the inspired spectacle of Dead Man´s Chest, of giant sea monsters, swordplay atop a runaway water wheel, or massive wooden cages swinging through the air. Here we have some wonderfully surreal scenes involving Depp clones and stone crabs in Davy Jones’ Locker at the beginning, and what feels like an hour of standard-fare pirate action at the end. In-between there’s plot, plot, plot and plot. And more plot.
Picking up where the previous installment left off, At World’s End starts off with our ragtag pirate heroes, now led by Geoffrey Rush´s resurrected Captain Barbossa, recruiting the help of Pirate Lord Sao Feng (Chow-Yun Fat) to save the lovable Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), digested by the Kraken and now residing in the limbo known as Davy Jones´ Locker.
There´s also the matter of Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), who aims to wipe out all pirates on the seas with the forced assistance of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and his Flying Dutchman.
And the nine Pirate Lords who aim to stop them, and their nine ‘Pieces of Eight´, and the mysterious Calypso that might save them. Oh, and the usual back-and-forth romance between Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly), which is thankfully brought to some kind of conclusion after meandering through the previous films.
And numerous, needless backstabbings and side-changings, entirely unnecessary as we already know all of these characters, who´s good and who´s bad and which side they´ll end up on.
Depp steals the show here, as he did in the previous films, but he almost seems toned down, his screen time reduced – so many characters, and so many plotlines, few of which focus on Sparrow. Keith Richards shows up and sticks around in a forced cameo as his father, displaying little of the charisma that originally inspired Depp´s character.
Rest of the cast is fine, tech credits are excellent all around, and there are some inspired bits – was that an homage to the finale of Zabriskie Point towards the end? – just not enough. The extended action during the climax, however, is effectively rousing (though it tends to drag on).
All in all, there´s enough money and talent and affinity for the production here to produce a moderately satisfying installment to the series. But it´s still something of a misfire, a mild mediocrity that entirely fails to justify its epic three-hour running time.