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Third Pirates Barely Keeps Franchise Afloat


By Bob Garver


            Previously on Pirates of the Caribbean


            Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) was killed by the Kraken controlled by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy).  The Kraken got Jack because he was betrayed by Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley).  Elizabeth handed Jack over to the Kraken because she knew Jones wanted to kill Jack badly and she found a way to do it so that the rest of the crew wouldn’t be killed along with him.  Her plan involved seducing Jack, which infuriated her boyfriend Will Turner (Orlando Bloom).  There is now distrust among the lovers.

Meanwhile, Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company was trying to wipe all the pirates off the face of the Earth.  He was on his way to succeeding, as Elizabeth’s jilted ex-lover Norrington (Jack Davenport) turned on the pirates and brought Beckett the heart of Davy Jones, which puts Jones and the Flying Dutchman at Beckett’s command.

All of Jack’s friends wanted him back from the dead, mainly for selfish reasons.  Will, for example, wanted his help to rescue his father (Stellan Skarsgaard) who was enslaved by Jones.  Elizabeth wanted him to help her rescue her own father (Jonathan Pryce) who had been arrested by Beckett.  And most of the other pirates just wanted him to stop Beckett’s tyranny.  Voodoo goddess Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), sympathetic to their cause, resurrected first-movie bad guy Barbossa (Geoffery Rush) to help them find Jack, who was trapped in the Land of the Dead at World’s End.


We’re expected to remember all that and more for Pirates of the Caribbean:  At World’s End.  If it isn’t enough to lose you, don’t worry, you’ll be lost soon enough.  At World’s End piles on even more helpings of twists, turns, alliances, betrayals, MacGuffins, legends, magic, and all sorts of other tricks.  It’s an awful lot of trouble to go to to follow a movie that’s based on a Disneyland ride and supposed to be for kids. 

The closest At World’s End comes to giving us a break in all this confusion is when a major character gets killed off and we can stop following their storyline.  Of course, then it goes and introduces a whole new character for us to try and keep up with.  For example, Singapore pirate king Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) is introduced early on, while Keith Richards shows up later as Sparrow’s father. 

The first two acts of the third Pirates film are the same utter mess as last year’s Dead Man’s Chest, but at least At World’s End redeems itself by climaxing in a fairly straightforward pirate battle with great action and visuals.  It is an indication of what the two sequels to 2003’s superior Curse of the Black Pearl could have been.  Director Gore Verbinski takes great pains to avoid insulting our intelligence, but overcompensates by making the plot too convoluted.  By the end we’re just hoping for him drop the thoughtful story and give us some sword fightin’. 


Robert Garver is a guest columnist who lives in Palmyra.  He is a junior in the Cinema Studies department at New York University.  He spends his weekends working at the Cinema Center of Palmyra so he can be closer to the movies.

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