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Movie Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End
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Dr. Geek, Ph.D.   |  
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Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's EndOne of the major unwritten laws of modern Hollywood movies is that more is always better. Why have one CGI battle scene when you can have two? Why have only two hours of movie when you can have three? Why just rely on a few big plot twists when there are so many to choose from?

Well, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End is pretty strong evidence of why this principle is misguided. Make no mistake, this is an entertaining movie. On the whole, it hits more than it misses… but given the amount of time and money spent making the film, why isn’t it batting closer to a thousand? Let’s find out.

First, let us consider movie plot. Having watched The Curse Of The Black Pearl on DVD this weekend, I can say that one of the real beauties of the first film is the structure of the plot. Will and Elizabeth represent honor and goodness. Barbossa represents the darkest evil. Norrington and Governor Swann represent societal convention. Jack Sparrow, he most beautifully represents the chaotic wild card, playing one side against another until he gets what he wants. This is what made Johnny Depp‘s role in the first film so amazing.

Using the principle of “more is better”, what was good for Jack Sparrow in the first movie, is good for everyone in the third. All stops are pulled out; characters align and re-align constantly throughout the first two hours of the film. This creates a plot that could easily fill out two other movies, or for that matter, half a season of episodic hourly television. What is missing is pacing, dialog, and character development. The movie characters become pieces on a chessboard. The moves and gambits that they make are interesting, but nowhere near as interesting as they would have been if more time was taken to let us, the viewers, learn and care more about them. That the characters do not get lost as they weave through the movie is a testimony to the actors — Depp, Orlando Bloom, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun-Fat, Stellan Skarsgard, and Kiera Knightley chew through as much dialogue and as much scenery as they can to keep their characters going.

Next, consider the size of the special effects budget. Computer-generated imagery has really opened up a whole new world for modern film makers. As George Lucas notes, it is now possible to efficiently edit in three dimensions. It is also possible to accomplish set pieces that Ray Harryhausen could only dream of when he was making movies like Jason and The Argonauts. The Curse Of The Black Pearl used CGI with what I deem a good sense of proportion. Be it the crew of Black Pearl moving in the moonlight in a very Disney Haunted House sort of way, or be it Jack Sparrow and Barbossa moving in and out of shafts of moonlight as they fight, the effects were eye-popping without being overbearing. That they also obviously drew inspiration from various parts of a theme-park attraction, only made them even more interesting.

Here again, At World’s End pulls out every last one of the stops. Storms. Maelstroms. Supernatural figures. The Ends of The Earth. Armadas of ships. Davy Jones’ Locker. Pirate hideaways. Spectacular fight sequences. We get to see it all… but it comes up more than a little empty.

It goes by too fast. There is no build up. It lacks proportion. Like a roller coaster that is a single large climb, and a single larger fall, there is a rise you feel in your gut, but it could have been so much more if it was all better paced and better timed. A roller coaster is better when you know what is coming and have time to anticipate and react.

With all this, there are some strong elements to the film. Without giving anything away, the film does not have a textbook Disney happy ending. I believe the movie is better for this, it is certainly something that let me re-engage with the characters after two-plus hours of plotting and scheming. I also think that the performances by Depp and Geoffrey Rush are excellent and really help to anchor the film and keep it going. The underlying premise that drives the plot is also an interesting one, although I believe it is one that could have been served much better by splitting this one film into at least two others.

In all, I was entertained. Could Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End have been a much better movie? Yes. Were there still questions about the plot that went unanswered as I left the theater? Yes. Did the movie seem long at a three-hour running time? Yes. Was Curse Of The Black Pearl a better movie? Yes. None of that matters in the final analysis, however. This film is still a popcorn cruncher of the first order. See it, and prepare to be amazed.

And oh yes, make sure to stay to the end of the credits. As with the first two films in the trilogy, there is an epilogue of sorts that helps to add some dimension to the ending.

17 Comments »

  1. Good review and some interesting points.
    This is the third time I’ve heard criticism this year about the length of a movie (the first two times were when I attended “Grindhouse” and “Spider-Man 3” with friends). For years I’ve complained that most movies have only been about 90 minutes long — giving theaters an opportunity to show the same film MORE times each day and make more money.
    But that trend has reversed, and now I’m sitting through movies that should have either been edited better or, as you said, introduced enough plot complications that could have been explored better in the NEXT sequel.
    I liked the review, but based on this information, I think I’ll wait until the three disc CD set of ALL the “Pirates” movies is released.

    Comment by T.E. Pouncey — May 29, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  2. i do agree that movies should hover a little longer sometimes.. but there are movies like King Kong that had a lot of long drawn out scenes that could have been left out. movies like star wars though that you barely feel like it really was 2 and half hours… those are the type of long movies we need… though i have yet to see this one and see if it keeps my attention.. but the first 2 did.. so im assuming this one will too

    Comment by Wanderer — May 29, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  3. […] At World’s End (Spoiler Free) Filed under: Uncategorized — recar @ 10:37 pm Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End (Spoiler Free) One of the major unwritten laws of modern Hollywood movies is that more is always better. Why have […]

    Pingback by mynewsfilter — May 29, 2007 @ 5:38 pm

  4. I guess it just depends on the movie, I found there were some scenes in At Worlds End to be a bit long and kinda dragged on a bit. And now that you mentioned the alliances and realliances, it all does get really confusing!

    SPOILER ALERT*






    If you guys stuck around after the credits you have a bonus scene where its 10 years into the future and Elizabeth has a son, they are at the shore and Will Turner shows up to see his son for the first time. If you remember the beginning of the movie there is a kid about to be hanged and he sings a song. That kid is the son. Plus with the addition of “The Fountain of Youth” plot at the end, is there going to be a Pirates 4?





    / SPOILER ALERT

    Comment by Allan — May 29, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  5. […] Read on to find out if this benefits or hurts Pirates 3 […]

    Pingback by SearchRoads — May 29, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  6. what does “…efficiently edit in three dimensions,” mean? i can’t find this quote attributed to lucas anywhere and i have no idea what it means.

    Comment by christopher — May 29, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  7. […] have three? Read on to find out if this benefits or hurts Pirates 3… […]

    Pingback by Cartoons Fans Lounge — May 29, 2007 @ 8:50 pm

  8. Re: At World’s End…

    Trackback by tribe.net — May 29, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

  9. Christopher:

    > what does “…efficiently edit in three dimensions,” mean? i
    > can’t find this quote attributed to lucas anywhere and i have
    > no idea what it means.

    I believe I saw George discuss that in the documentary “The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing”. He was referring to the fact that CGI allows the composition of shots “in camera” with a full range of aspect and proportion, unlike older techniques where you were forced work with a hole in a matte painting, for example.

    Comment by Dr. Geek, Ph.D. — May 30, 2007 @ 12:07 am

  10. As always, a film that stretches past 2 and a half hours becomes a butt-numb-athon. By the time we got to the scene in Lord of the Rings with the ‘menage-a-trois’ of hobbits I was ready to leave…that said, I will always watch a film for films’ sake, so Pirates will probably be on my ‘To Watch’ list.

    Plus I do want to see you-know-who play his-father-who-he-is-based-on.

    Comment by Manic_Rage — May 30, 2007 @ 1:16 am

  11. […] can have three? Read on to find out if this benefits or hurts Pirates 3…[…]

    Pingback by Prime News Blog — May 30, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  12. […] Read on to find out if this benefits or hurts Pirates 3… […]

    Pingback by Cartoons Plugin — May 30, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  13. I love longer movies as long as I feel like I’m not wasting my time.

    Comment by Motorcycle Guy — May 30, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

  14. On the contrary, this movie just plain sucked and was a complete waste of my 9 dollars. Plots were confusing and had no value. I didn’t care about the characters. There was not progression of plot. Bad acting. Over used CGI, and CGI used as a crutch. Too many monkey jokes. Overall, a worthless piece of film.

    Go watch some Kubrick.

    Comment by Jeff — May 30, 2007 @ 8:07 pm

  15. **SPOILER WARNING**




    This movie flat out sucked. Every major moment was anti-climatic. Saving Jack — the characters weren’t even involved. A bunch of crabs saved his ship. WTF? Freeing the sea goddess… was boring. She grows really tall, turns into a bunch of crabs and creates a whirlpool that sucks in a whopping ONE ship. Not very impressive, and rather boring. The death of Davy Jones… again, he dies not after some epic struggle or some awesome, choreographed sword fight… nope, just a quick stab in the heart from the chest. Meh. killing off a main character… again, bad idea…

    Not to mention the fact that I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters this time around. There was no character development whatsoever. Will & Elizibeth were so full of angst it sucked. Will doesn’t trust her because he thinks she loves Jack. Elizibeth doesn’t trust Will because he didn’t tell her about his father… I wish my grass was as emo so it would go cut itself. So after hardly speaking to each other or being nice or giving any indication that they’re romantically involved… they spontaneously ask to be married while they’re under attack by fish people… And then they kill Will minutes after they both say I Do…

    This has got to be one of the worst Disney movies I’ve ever seen, and yet another let down for the Summer movie season.

    Comment by Michael — May 31, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  16. Wow I completely lost all respect for these reviews. Pirates 3 was the work movie I have ever seen. I just saw Blood and Chocolate and I think that move was way better than Pirates 3 and it’s a straight to video.

    I would have walked out if I could. It just became so bad that I had to start laughing at it in the theater. I can only imagine that this movie is similar to WaterWorld in length and stupidity.

    Comment by Pirates — June 23, 2007 @ 10:37 pm

  17. […] read more | digg story […]

    Pingback by I Like The Movies — November 2, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

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