With Spider-Man’s history and Shrek’s brilliant comedy and satirical look at conspicuous consumerism, why is it that a movie based on a Disney ride is the only one of this summer’s threequels to surpass expectations?
At World’s End is a strange movie [not that the first two weren’t strange…]. It does without its main character for most of the first act and still has more imagination and energy than any blockbuster released so far this year.
If you want plot points and character arcs, At World’s End is awash with ‘em: Will Turner’s [Orlando Bloom] odd behavior; Tia Dalma’s [Naomie Harris] secret; a strange and unexpected use for Rigetti’s [Mackenzie Crook] wooden eye; Davy Jones’ [Bill Nighy] secret love; Davy Jones’ Locker; "It’s nothing personal, Jack. It’s just good business."; the Pirate King; maelstroms; cryptic maps; Keira Knightley… And that’s just for openers!
Unlike other reviewers, I’m dispensing with a plot synopsis for two reasons: there’s so much plot it would take a good ten thousand words to even begin to approximate the goings on in this film, and I just don’t want to deprive any unspoiled viewer from discovering the unbridled fun that’s in store for them.
Even with all its plot points, character arcs and action set pieces, one might expect At World’s End’s 168-minute running time to be too much. After all, even though it was great fun, Pirates 2 was noticeably twenty minutes too long. Such is not the case – this much longer entry in the series plays like a ninety-minute film. One never notices that it takes three hours to get out of the theater.
If anything, the film’s flaws are that there are so many plot arcs that some remain unresolved at the end. Director Gore Verbinski – working from a genuinely smart script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio – paces things exactly right. What early exposition is required is handled in offhand manner that is interwoven with the situations of every character so seamlessly that it never feels like the audience is having stuff explained to them.
The big action set pieces have small grace notes of character and relationships sprinkled liberally throughout. At no point does the audience ever feel it is suffering from information overload. And, hey! There’s even a unique new use for an undead monkey! How can you not love that?
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned Captain Jack Sparrow [Johnny Depp], yet. That’s because there’s so much to like about At World’s End that his presence at the end of the first act is a jolt of extra electricity that enhances what has gone on before and gives new depth to what happens from then on.
Depp plays Sparrow with more focus and determination than in Dead Man’s Chest. This time, the fey pirate is scheming and conniving for different reasons than before – much more personal reasons! There’s more of an edge to him – and edge that is blunted only by an encounter with his father [Keith Richards, excellent in a pivotal cameo].
With its occasionally disappearing/unresolved plot arcs and more twists and turns than the minotaur’s labyrinth, At World’s End could have been a disaster. Instead, it’s pure fun and the first blockbuster of the season to actually be worth seeing more than once in a theater!
Final Grade B+
EM Review by
Originally Posted 05/25/05