Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

An entertaining romp in which everybody gets rather wet.

Principal Cast and Crew

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann
Jack Davenport as James Norrington
Bill Nighy as Davy Jones
Stellan Skarsgård as ‘Bootstrap’ Turner
Tom Hollander as Lord Cutler Beckett
Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma
Chow Yun Fat as Captain Sao Feng

Directed by Gore Verbinksi

Written by Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio

Synopsis

With Lord Beckett and the East India Company in control of Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman, the pirate lords of the world must unite or become extinct. Unfortunately, one of them died at the end of the previous film…

High Point

The fate of the Flying Dutchman and her crew, or more particularly, the point where they realise what it is.

Low Point

While trying not to spoil the outcome of the final battle, if you’ve got cannon balls penetrating a ship, aren’t they going to come out the other side? And if so, isn’t it a bad idea to have an ally also firing from the other side?

The Scores

Originality: Sequels are never as original as the stories they are sequels to of course, but this third installment adds some new elements to the existing formula, and the story’s never quite entirely predictable, which leads to a few surprises. Four out of six.

Effects: Whatever else one might say about At World’s End, it is extremely difficult to criticise the visual effects which are absolutely superb. The final battle in particular demonstrates a mastery of water rendering and some truly delightful explosions. Six out of six.

Story: Continuing a while after the end of the previous film, it doesn’t take long before we’re familiar with developments while we were away and back into the thick of things. It’s a good tale with many layers of motivation, deceit, loyalty and betrayal, but at times I wonder if they didn’t introduce too many new elements into this film. It works, but occasionally it does feel rather laid on by the shovelful. Highly entertaining, though. Five out of six.

Emotional Response: Because the film is produced as a pure entertainment vehicle (with a healthy dose of escapism on the side) it’s difficult to become greatly emotionally invested in the characters and their fates. One never really believes that anybody important is going to die or suffer a gruesome fate for all eternity. The emotional response to this film comes more from the huge setpiece battles and events than for care over any particular character. Four out of six.

Acting: The returning cast performed much as they did in the previous film, which is to be expected. Of the new cast, I was a little disappointed in Chow Yun Fat, as I felt he was just a little too over the top. Orlando Bloom, unfortunately, remains only moderately convincing, particularly next to Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, both of whom are clearly having enormous fun. Mention must also be made of the superb Bill Nighy, who once more steals the film. Five out of six.

Production: Parts of this film don’t feel like a Pirates film, but by and large this only applies to the parts which take place in the lands of the dead and as such you expect things to be a little strange there. Elsewhere, the environments are lavish, the ships are romantic tributes to a bygone era of stories and songs, and the fight choreography is ridiculously complicated yet extremely effective. My most serious criticism lies in the soundtrack, as the growing prevalence of electric guitars became distracting as the story reached its climax. Five out of six.

Overall: Overall, this is a very enjoyable romp, but if you go into the cinema expecting something miraculous you will come out disappointed. Five out of six.

And so we award Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End a very respectable thirty-four out of forty-two.

9 replies on “Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

  1. FarmerBob says:

    Crossfire…
    About the low point…

    Cannon of that era were not exactly what we would consider powerful artillery pieces. I’m not an expert on the subject (nor have I seen the movie), but cannon balls are not known for their ability to penetrate well. The cannon balls would, after striking a ship, either stay in that ship or fall into the water beyond. At best the cannon ball would bounce harmlessly off the reinforced hull of the third ship unless it struck nothing in the target ship.

    • zonk3r says:

      Re: Crossfire…
      Actually the bigger problem with that scene was the ship they were firing into had more cannons than you would have seen on a real ship of the era. There was a very short period where ships had cannons from water line to the deck.

      This design was quickly eradicate after realizing the ship became very top heavy and likely to roll in bad weather or in the unlikely event of synchronously firing all cannons on one side of the ship.

      In any case, it was a fun movie that had some issues mainly in that it was rather convoluted plot-wise and could have used some trimming down. It is sad though that this is the last we’ll see of Capt. Jack but the last scene is a fitting end.

      BTW, stay until after the credits.

      • mbourgon says:

        Re: Crossfire…

        It is sad though that this is the last we’ll see of Capt. Jack but the last scene is a fitting end.

        Nuh-uh. That had sequel written all over it. They’ll be chasing him there, or something like that. Depp got top billing on 2 & 3 – I don’t see them leaving him out of the next.

        BTW, stay until after the credits.

        DOH! Since I didn’t, what was it?

        • zonk3r says:

          Re: Crossfire…

          DOH! Since I didn’t, what was it?

          minor spoiler follows:

          We see a bright green flash and Will Turner coming back after 10 years to see… WT III standing on shore with his mother waiting for Will. Nothing big, but a nice little touch.

    • iamlegion says:

      Re: Crossfire…
      I was re-watching the first movie a while back, and was really impressed with the amount of thought & period research they clearly tried to get in (not always successfully, but hey – it’s Hollywood). The one glaring thing the missed though was the ship combat… The Big Deal in ship combat was _not_ coming side-by-side with the target – that’s clearly stupid. The best thing to do was to "cross the T" – come across the direct bow (or stern) of the target and send your broadside right at them. Yes, you’ve got a smaller target to shoot at, but a) your target can’t really bring any guns to bear to shoot back at you, and b) the shots that do hit will travel farther through the length of the target, doing more damage.

      That said, FarmerBob’s right in that a round, after going through _both_ side hulls of a ship, wouldn’t really have enough oomph left to hurt a ship on the far side. Although they do get bonus points for using chain shot to take out the enemy’s mast & rigging.

      • zonk3r says:

        Re: Crossfire…
        Agreed.

        If anyone is into this kind of thing I highly recommend the Aubrey/Maturin series of books by Patrick O’Brian (of which they made a movie "Master and Commander" out of a culmination of the first few books). Great stuff.

        I also doubt there will be a true sequel to this as none of the principals have agreed to return and though Depp has said he loves the character my bet is he probably would like to return to him smaller more kitschy movies. But I hope I’m wrong (at least I hope they don’t do a typical Disney crapass direct to video release).

        • Eldhrin says:

          Re: Crossfire…
          Okay so I shouldn’t have expected the Pearl and the Dutchman to sink each other in that scene, but it really did look like they should judging by the effects work of cannon balls penetrating the ships.

    • roseblood says:

      Re: Crossfire…

      About the low point…

      Cannon of that era were not exactly what we would consider powerful artillery pieces. I’m not an expert on the subject (nor have I seen the movie), but cannon balls are not known for their ability to penetrate well. The cannon balls would, after striking a ship, either stay in that ship or fall into the water beyond. At best the cannon ball would bounce harmlessly off the reinforced hull of the third ship unless it struck nothing in the target ship.

      An 12 pound (lead) ball had no problem penetrating a 6 inch thick multi-layered bit of reinforced planking in a not so recent cable television series. It proceeded to penetrate the bodies of 3 or 4 hog carcasses (human substitutes) before flying onward. I haven’t seen the film but it would seem a non-explosive ball could penetrate and exit a ship with a six inch thick hull.

      • FarmerBob says:

        Re: Crossfire…

        About the low point…

        Cannon of that era were not exactly what we would consider powerful artillery pieces. I’m not an expert on the subject (nor have I seen the movie), but cannon balls are not known for their ability to penetrate well. The cannon balls would, after striking a ship, either stay in that ship or fall into the water beyond. At best the cannon ball would bounce harmlessly off the reinforced hull of the third ship unless it struck nothing in the target ship.

        An 12 pound (lead) ball had no problem penetrating a 6 inch thick multi-layered bit of reinforced planking in a not so recent cable television series. It proceeded to penetrate the bodies of 3 or 4 hog carcasses (human substitutes) before flying onward. I haven’t seen the film but it would seem a non-explosive ball could penetrate and exit a ship with a six inch thick hull.

        The problem here is not penetrating one wall. The problem is penetrating one reinforced wall, then a few more things, then another reinforced wall, and after that travelling a significant distance (without previously being deflected in some way) and penetrating ANOTHER reinforced wall. I doubt a modern artillery piece could do that without being deflected.

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