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It such an irony that pirate movies tell stories about a “profession” most generally associated with scum, villainy and other non-pleasantries as a heroic career for free-spirits and the righteously rebellious, and that’s how Pirates of the Caribbean carries on its stories.
Most of the time, those pirates appears to be up to little more than high junks and haven’t been presented as real thieves or marauders since the supernaturally assisted attack on Port Royal in the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. However, while the pirates may still appear like lovable scamps in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the demands of this plot mean that they’re so concerned with keeping up the momentum of fun that almost no time is devoted to actual.
The plot is quite good. There’s much sailing to and fro, lots of crosses, double-crosses, triple-crosses and so-many-crosses-it’s-basically-a-porcupine and mini story arcs for even the most minor characters. We are pretty sure that Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) are having difficulties, Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) is having hallucinations and Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) is using Davy Jones’ (Bill Nighy) heart to control the seas and stamp out piracy. Then, coming new Singaporean pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) and voodoo priestess Tia (Naomie Harris), as the betrayals and treachery mount, the movie becomes impossible to keep track of anyone’s motivation.
Still, if you can just let the story wash past you and stop trying to catch the expeditionary dialogue as it flits past in a variety of syrupy brogues, there is still some fun to be had. Elizabeth Swann becomes “King” Of the Pirates, while Bloom struggles to make any impact with a character who’s gone from pleasantly heroic to confused and confusing. Jack still saves the day as he hamming it up and zinging lines off Barbossa. The hallucinatory early scenes in Davy Jones’ locker, where we see the Pearl crewed entirely by multiple of Captain Jacks, show Depp clearly having a ball, and if later visionary forays are less successful he still eats up the screen every minute he’s on it.
There’s some quite disturbing violence between the funs. In an opening scene, there are mass hangings of pirates and their collaborators, and it’s a surprised choices for a Disney summer blockbuster. It’s also undeniably impressive visually. A few of the sequences are gasp-out-loud gorgeous, there’s a beautifully shot finale for one villain and the effects are well-nigh flawless, with almost every scene up to the same quality as Davy Jones’ breathtakingly good execution.
The climax of this movie frankly has ‘sequel bait’ written all over it, and although the traditional post-credits coda somewhat suggests that it’s an actual finish, expect Pirates of the Caribbean 4 – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End to be announced the moment that the opening weekend figures come back in. Let’s just hope that next time they keep things simple.