Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

dir: Gore Verbinski
[img_assist|nid=748|title=Even filthy you'd have me|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
I generally avoid using text speak or any of the other variations on txting, l33t speak or online abbreviations that are so popular with ‘the kids’ these. I can type fairly fast, and I find that kind of “c u l8r qt slt:)~” crap offensive to the eye and brain.

If I could allow myself to use this inelegant and conceptually ugly form of expression, and were I to write a very short review of Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End in this fashion, it would simply be thus:

WTF? I mean seriously, WTF?

At World’s End is a very curious film. Upon first watching I thought I’d just seen one of the worst films of this or any other year. Upon second watching I chilled out a tad, and realised that, if it was a dumb flick, it probably wasn’t that much dumber than the second flick in this vaunted series, Dead Man’s Chest. And that as timber-shivering, buckle-swashing experiences go, it wasn’t too painful or dull, and at the very least, had the virtue of being unpredictable.

Watching this third flick is a surreal experience, where the application of sense or logic is the foolhardiest of foolhardy pursuits. And it goes for over two and a half hours, so it’s surreal and overly long to boot, like a proctology exam when you’re tripping on acid.

It has more plots than your local cemetery, and more special effects shots than the camerawork for that excruciating daytime yakfest The View. You know, the show with a bunch of superannuated women nattering about girdles, chocolate and vagina in general. Starring Barbara Walters and Bette Midler.

Bette goddamn Midler. I would not have been surprised if Bette Midler had turned up in At World’s End, brandishing a flintlock and cutlass, screaming ‘Avast, me hardies, and have at the scurvy dogs, aye!’ I mean, they’ve got Keith Richards in a cameo, and he looks like no special effects are needed to uglify him up in the slightest.

There are a lot of characters in this film, including ones who aren’t members of the Rolling Stones. At my count the flick has speaking parts for around 14,000 actors, which is great for them, truly. Paid work is always a wonderful thing. Good for the economy and such.

The flick begins with swathes of dirty people in chains lined up before the gallows, awaiting the hangman’s tender ministrations. Evil Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander), who works for the East India Trading Company, and for some nebulous British king, has, as his mission, the eradication of all vestiges of piracy in the world, let alone in the Caribbean.

Beckett, as arising from the doings transpiring at the end of the second flick, controls the monstrous Davy Jones (Bill Nigh) and his magical ship the Flying Dutchman. He has been using Jones to hunt down and kill every pirate he can find on the high seas, at the same time as building his own armada of vessels in order to have some kind of final confrontation with the remaining pirates.

But, you see, that’s not enough plot for this flick.

Out of nowhere the writers have come up with additional storylines about how the pirates of the seven seas actually have some kind of hierarchy, being the nine Pirate Lords. The pirate lords are joined by one commonality, and that is that they all possess a so-called piece of eight. These pieces of eight, which aren’t coins, all arise from the binding of a sea goddess called Calypso in human form, whom the first pirate lords, as part of the Brethren Court, bound so as to give men the mastery of the seas.

Huh? Wah? What the fuck?

You know, I’m not sure, but I could be one of the pirate lords too. And you too, maybe, you just never know. These writers are pulling things out of any available orifice to cap off this series of movies, so you just don’t know what they’re capable of.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is one of the pirate lords, not because it makes sense, but because he’s Captain Jack. But wasn’t he eaten by a giant octopus, you say? And why is Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) alive again, after being killed off at the end of the first flick? And how likely is it that he’s one of the pirate lords?

Well, funny you should mention that. You see, Captain Jack isn’t dead: he’s in Davy Jones’ Locker. Davy Jones’ Locker isn’t an actual locker, or like a trunk that the member of 60s pop band The Monkees called Davy Jones used to put the bodies of hookers in. Davy Jones’ Locker is some kind of limbo, another dimension where Davy Jones sends people he doesn’t like. Via, I dunno, magic or some such.

And Captain Jack is there, mad as ever. The heroes (well, I guess they’re supposed to be heroes) Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) want to rescue him for their own reasons, Captain Barbossa also wants to rescue him because of a promise made to the person who resurrected him.

And they need him for his, uh, piece of eight.

You know, keeping track of everything going on here, and the alliances, allegiances and plans for crossing, double-crossing and triple-crossing is a difficult and pointless endeavour. It really amounts to nothing. People speak and speak, and if it isn’t amusing, then you might as well drift off and think about other stuff. Like how you’re getting ever closer, minute by minute, to your own death.

When the action starts at flick’s beginning, Barbossa, Elizabeth and Will have travelled to Singapore to see a pirate lord called Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), and to get his charts and one of his ships in order to sail to the World’s End, which presumably leads to Davy Jones’ Locker. As Barbossa is asking Sao Feng for a ship, I couldn’t help but wonder how he and the rest of his merry pirate band got to Singapore in the first place. Did he post himself in a crate, did he fly over on the Hindenburg, did he carjack some guy in a lowrider and drive all the way there? And, considering the fact that Singapore didn’t exist back then (whenever the films are set, which looks like it’s the Restoration era, let’s say 17th Century), how did he find it?

I know it’s silly picking the nits on such a shaggy dog, especially considering the fact that these are fantasy films, pure and simple, based on or at least originating from a fucking rollercoaster ride at Disneyland. But you can’t help but wonder how the screenwriters got away with a lot of this script.

It’s pretty much downhill from there in terms of sensible storytelling, but it rises up and sideways as the whole surreal fantastical stuff kicks in.

Johnny Depp gets to work with his favourite actor again by playing multiple versions of crazy Captain Jack. He gets some entirely surreal scenes in limbo with a multitude of other Jacks, with a Black Pearl sailing on land, and thousands of strange crabs doing someone’s bidding. He remains mad throughout the film, clearly indicating that he was mad from the start regardless.

He has a plan: he wants to kill Davy Jones and take his place. Jack is happy to betray everyone to achieve his goals, predominantly in ways that make no sense.

Will Turner has a plan: set his father Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) free from Davy Jones’s crusty crew. Will is happy to betray everyone to achieve his goals, predominantly in ways that make no sense.

Elizabeth has no plan, but wants to betray everyone. Sao Feng wants to either betray everyone, or wants to rape Elizabeth because he thinks she’s the goddess Calypso (?). Barbossa is content to betray people on a case by case basis, as long as he gets to be captain of the Black Pearl again. Davy Jones doesn’t want to betray anyone, but does want a bit of moisturiser for his tentacles. That sea water and the harsh sunlight must be murder on the skin.

Returning to Elizabeth, she is given this rousing speech to inspire a bunch of pirates to fight the good fight against overwhelming odds etc etc towards the end. She screeches and shrieks to high heaven in such a way that I guarantee you, had people not been paid to stand there, you would have had a mutiny on your hands and a swift keel hauling. Not only does her St Crispins Day speech not inspire, it downright made me want to punch Keira Knightley's grandmother in the face out of revenge.

Calypso wants to turn into a million crabs, Lord Beckett wants to kill everyone because they all think he’s a prissy nancyboy, Pintel and Ragetti (Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook) just want somewhere quiet where they can have sex, the monkey wants a peanut, the parrot wants a cracker, and I just wanted it all to end.

The big, final confrontation occurs in the middle of a storm, in the middle of a whirlpool, combining every aspect of pirate films you could expect (sword fighting, pistols, cannons firing at other ships, people swinging on ropes) all at the same time, in an incomprehensible jumble of image, sight and sound. It’s like getting a concert pianist and getting him to play a sonata on a piano after you’ve pushed the piano and the pianist over Niagara Falls.

Hey, don’t get me wrong: every time any of these things happens, it’s visually stunning with all the best CGI money can buy. So the film looks quite impressive throughout, especially on the big screen.

But what you have to keep asking yourself, like I was asking myself: is it fun?

The problem ultimately is that the flick really isn’t that much fun. Oh, I know millions of people went to see it; the film made over 900 million dollars. Even with the American dollar as bad as it is, that’s still a serious amount of money.

And a lot of people must have been hoping for something to capture the delight and entertaining idiocy of the first flick, which was marginally present in the second. The third, for me, is lacking in entertainment and overflowing with the idiocy.

Sure I couldn’t predict how everything was going to end, but by the time the plot got to the end, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Elvis, Jesus and Clyde the Orangutan from those Clint Eastwood movies showed up in a flying saucer to save the day.

I just really didn’t think it was that good. As a disappointing third instalment, for my money, this ranks up there with Matrix Revolutions in terms of how disappointed and how incredulous I was that so many bad script choices were made by people too close to their own material to see how meandering and fatuous it truly was. If I’m watching a flick, and I’m being reminded involuntarily of movies as bad as The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, then, no, it’s not Me, it’s You, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

3 times depression is the leading cause of heavy drinking out of 10.

“Gentlemen, I wash my hands of this weirdness.” – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.