Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenwriters: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Runtime: 168 mns
Release: 24 May
It’s hard to imagine a time when Captain Jack Sparrow wasn’t a part of the pop culture lexicon. Yet if we cast our minds back only four years we’ll find ourselves in 2003, a time when the swaggering pirate was but a speck on the horizon and blockbuster aficionados’ hero of choice was a surfer dude who could like, totally stop bullets, man. 2003 was the year of The Matrix sequels, with two films being made and released back to back and endless tie-ins including video games, comic books etc surely it couldn’t do wrong in its attempt to dominate. Instead the two bloated sequels and endless tie-ins sickened the world to the cod-philosophical adventures of Neo and co. Amidst the murky waters then sailed in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and won audiences over with its romping sense of fun and action packed panto madness erasing the nasty memories of Matrix overkill.
Now we find ourselves sitting down to watch the second Pirates sequel, At Worlds End, also filmed back to back complete with all the product tie-ins and it’s a typical case of Hollywood not learning from its mistakes. The plot, blundering over from the second film, sees Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) team up with the inexplicably resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) attempt to save Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davey Jones’ Locker in time to unite the Pirate fleet of the world in a final battle against the East India Trading Company.
Someone wonders aloud in the film if Jack Sparrow has a plan or makes it all up as he goes along, and the same could be asked of writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (Shrek, Godzilla). The multiple and incomprehensible narrative threads that sank Dead Man’s Chest either continue to do so here or are conveniently forgotten about. Each of the main characters has individual motivations, and the script is filled with more double crosses and backstabbing that you can shake a cutlass at but it’s all nonsense that’s eventually ignored come the water soaked action finale. Too much plot and an overstuffed script seem to be the blockbuster malady of the year.
Performance wise we’re on less shaky ground. Depp continues to be great fun and Rush, turning out to be the franchises secret weapon, is a welcome return as the devious Barbossa. Their captaincy rivalry (it’s all about the size of your telescope you know) gets the most laughs and left me wishing that if the sequels had to be made then they could have created individual adventures around their characters. Orlando Bland and Keira Knightley are as damp as ever, neither convince as lovers or Pirates, and eyes are thoroughly rolled during their retina scraping screen time. Why these two weren’t dumped overboard after the first film can only be to appease the lowest common denominator that make them box office champs.
The film does remain entertaining for the majority of its duration, it might not make much sense but there’s a sense of fun that keeps it afloat through choppy waters. Special effects are naturally top notch, and the character designs of the pirates and the cursed crew members of the Flying Dutchman are delightful. Director Gore Verbinski knows how to put together action scenes, the finale with two ships going head to head in a whirlpool is spectacular stuff. The haunting scene where the crew return from the land of the dead, and witness people passing over to death in little lamp lit boats is equally beautiful. Yet the occasional moment of eye candy and the odd excellent action set piece don’t make up for the crushing disappointment of wasted potential. The Pirates may be at world’s end, but you’ll find me at wits end with the noisy and insipid rubbish passing for entertainment these days.