What is it about threes? I typically enjoy third installments, even the ones most people dislike (“Robocop 3”, “Alien 3”, “X-Men 3”). However, I can rarely bring myself to argue that the third entries are often the weakest. Does being the weakest installment in a fantastic franchise somehow make “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” a bad movie? I can honestly say that no, it does not. And while “Pirates 3” may not be my favorite entry into the trilogy, that by no means should imply I didn’t enjoy the heck out of it.
Quickly picking up where “Dead Man’s Chest” left off, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is very much dead, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is very much alive and with Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) in the servitude of the villainous Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), the crew of the Black Pearl is very much screwed. The only way to defeat Beckett and Jones is to gather all nine Pirate Lords from across the globe to a summit at Shipwreck Cove so that they might band together for a final stand. Impeding this is the fact that one of the more notorious Pirate Lords, a Mr. Sparrow, is currently suffering unimaginable pain within Davy Jones’ Locker. And while Barbossa and his crew trek to the Nether Regions to haul Sparrow back, other characters are forming their own questionable machinations, namely Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who will do whatever it takes to rescue his damned father from his imprisonment onboard Jones’ ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman.
While “Pirates 3” ranks third in regards to my preference for the series, it’s still a glorious movie and a satisfying conclusion to the storyline. The “Pirates Trilogy” reminded me a great deal of the Star Wars Trilogy, at least in structure. The first film tells its own self-contained adventure and can be watched isolated from its sequels. The second film starts a new plotline that remains unresolved by the film’s conclusion, leaving the audience with a cliffhanger ending and quite a few “WTF?” questions that need to be answered. And finally, the third installment ties up the lose ends and concludes the adventures, though not all will be pleased with the results. Granted, there’s nothing as diabolical as Ewoks in this movie, but you get where I’m coming from, right?
All the actors deliver performances worthy of the franchise. Johnny Depp is a riot as Captain Jack Sparrow and all, but to me, the real treat was seeing Geoffrey Rush return as Captain Barbossa, the villain from the first flick. While the explanation for his resurrection left me a bit unsatisfied, I can’t bring myself to complain, as his presence really boosted the film. The love triangle between Will Turner, Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan (Kiera Knightley) is all but resolved for this film, with most of the tension coming from Will’s and Elizabeth’s inability to trust one another. The “comedy relief” members of the crew can begin to grate on one’s nerves after a fashion, but Director Gore Verbinski seems to know when to cut their antics short for the most part.
I suppose if I have any nits to pick it would be the constant switching of sides between characters and the numerous plot threads all going on at once. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, making the film a bit hard to follow unless you’re devoting your absolute attention to it. One bathroom break could lose you entirely, as three characters could have swapped allegiances in the time it takes you to wash your hands.
If any word best sums up the Pirates Trilogy it would have to be “fun”. There’s a strong sense of humor throughout the series, a concept that few films have chosen to explore lately (how many good pirate movies can you name from the last decade?), jaw-dropping special effects, memorable characters, a solid cast…the works. Being the “weakest” installment in a franchise as spectacular as this one is nothing to be ashamed of.