This review originally was written in 2007 with the understanding that the fourth film was still a rumor on a storyboard. Personally, I will be seeing the fourth installment simply to see if any of these loose ends were tied up and to enjoy all of those beautiful special effects on the big screen.
Ten years ago when someone said "Pirates of the Caribbean," the classic Disneyland ride came to mind, complete with "yo hos" and "dead men tell no tales." Now with The Pirates of the Caribbean films, pirates have a whole new association, Captain Jack Sparrow has even been added to the Disney ride. Ridden too many times a theme park attraction begins to lose its novelty, and like the ride that it takes its title from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the third and (hopefully) final installment stretches stories and characters so thin, that its hard to remember why you loved it so much in the first place.
Both the writers of the film and I are under the impression that you have seen the previous two films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man's Chest, because if you have not then you are out of luck. In fact, if you have not seen them back-to-back it is hard to pick up on all of the references used in the film. As a disclaimer, see the other two first, and with that aside, this is the final chapter to this trilogy.
The last that we left our favorite crew, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) had just been brought back to life to help retrieve Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who is in Davy Jones' Locker, something like purgatory. We begin At World's End with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), William Turner (Orlando Bloom) and the rest of the crew trying find a ship and map to Davy Jones' Locker. The problem being that Jack must be brought back because he is one of the nine Pirate Lords that complete the Brethren Court. They must unite to fight against the East India Trading Co., which has been slowly taking over the seas with the control of Davy Jones.
The film is about freedom, the freedom of choice, of honor and of the self. Every character wants something different, but in the pirate world betrayal and backstabbing are a part of it, so it gives the themes a little twist. But this is where the problems lie; there is just too much going on in already very long movie.
Will Turner is trying to save his father, so that involves making plans with the British, with Davy Jones, and with Jack Sparrow. Jack wants The Black Pearl and that involves Davy Jones and his heart, the British, and Turner. Davy Jones wants his heart so that he can control his actions and that involves the British and everyone else that is trying to get to it first. This isn't even getting into Elizabeth's or Captain Barbossa's stories. This being my point--there is just too much plot to get through that it doesn't impact the viewer when important things happen.
The film becomes exhausting on so many levels, but the visual effects are incredible; fantasy merging with reality never looked so good. The most interesting scenes occur in Davy Jones' Locker, when Jack Sparrow goes crazy, but this strays from the linear story so director Gore Verbinski took some chances with it and it worked. Everything is filmed at such a grandiose scale that it leaves the viewer in awe. In fact, the characters even become larger than life, escaping more than just death, but immortality.
This DVD comes with another disk of all the bonus features. For somebody interested in the making of this film, they will be very happy with some of the options. One of the more interesting features is Keith and The Captain: On Set with Johnny Depp and The Rock Legend. It is fun to watch the way that Johnny Depp and Keith Richards interact with one another on and off set. Also, for any CGI buffs, take a look at Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom because here they show how the sets of the boats were created, the blue screens used and the time that went into just creating the last scene. Another interesting feature is The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer, which goes into the recording studio to show how they approached this film score different than the previous two films.
If you liked the first two films, then you should see At World's End. It picks up where Dead Man's Chest left off and leaves many questions unanswered, but that really isn't the problem. It is entertaining, made to be a blockbuster hit. And for that, it delivers, giving you the thrill of the first time, but only the first time. But by the end of this movie, there are so many loose ends left to be tied that the fourth film is inevitable, if only anybody knew that three times was too much and I want to get off the ride.