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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), revealing everything you ever wanted to know about Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman.

May 28, 2017

MY CALL:  Lots of action, lots of pirate crews, lots more complicated plot. This sequel really just seems to be about “more” than it is about development.  World-building continues, but at a much less gratifying pace than before.  This is the least rewatchable of the early Pirates trilogy.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Pirates of the CaribbeanFirst things first: you better see The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003; the BEST of the franchise, in my opinion) and Dead Man’s Chest (2006) before you see this! People who love this likely prefer grand-scale worlds as found in the Harry Potter films (2001-2011), The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and The Hobbit trilogies (2012-2014), Jurassic Park (1993) and The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003).  I’d also strongly recommend the STARZ series Black Sails (2014-2017; 4 seasons).

With Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales coming out (2017), I felt the need to revisit the Pirates anthology. Having covered The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Dead Man’s Chest (2006), it’s on to At World’s End to continue this epic adventure franchise…

The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) had a rather complicated but followable plot for a Disney vehicle. Since then, each sequel has subsequently added more head-scratching complexity and compound double-crosses across the board confounding one’s ability to keep up with what’s going in the franchise and, occasionally, what’s even going on in this movie!  In other words, this is the most confusing thing Disney has ever done since their decision that The Lion King (1994) needed sequels.

Picking up from the end of Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley; Domino, Love Actually) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush; Gods of Egypt, The Warrior’s Way, The King’s Speech) head to Singapore to recruit the aid of Captain Sao Feng’s (Chow Yun Fat; The Monkey King, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hard-Boiled) crew to save Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the Land of the Dead in Davy Jones’ Locker.

Meanwhile, by Lord Beckett’s (Tom Hollander; Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Taboo) order, pirates and all known pirate associates are being wholesale hanged into pirate extinction.  You’d think the pirate captains would all want to work together to save their kind…you’d think, right?  So the plot follows the pirates’ path to unity against their greater enemy while, remaining like a Dead Man’s Chest (2006) hangover, an entanglement of backstabbing motives are painstakingly (although occasionally humorously) sorted out.  Needless to say, this is not intended to work as a standalone film and you should dare not see it unless you saw Dead Man’s Chest (2006) very recently.  I saw parts 1 and 2 a month before this and I found myself needing a bit of a refresher on all the ongoing sly motives from Dead Man’s Chest.

The voyage to Davy Jones’ Locker takes Swann, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom; The Hobbit trilogy; The Three Musketeers, Troy) and Barbossa to the end of the world.  But why save Jack right now?  Well, it turns out he holds one of the nine “Pieces of Eight,” and thus he must attend the Brethren Court of pirates with this important and mysterious object.  Upon finding Jack in his unpleasant Underworld, he is hallucinating and even more insane than is generally accepted as normal…for Jack anyway.

It seems that each Pirates installment introduces a new pirate captain—which basically adds a new person with their own backstabbing agenda. We had Jack, Barbossa and Davy Jones (Bill Nighy; Underworld, Shaun of the Dead, Jack the Giant Slayer), and now we find Captain Sao Feng.  The numerous double-crosses from Dead Man’s Chest (2006) persist with Turner needing the Pearl to save his father from Davy Jones, Lord Beckett holds Davy Jones’ heart as collateral for his pirate services, Sao Feng turns on Jack and Sao Feng turns on Turner after Turner turns on Jack and Barbossa, and Davy Jones apparently had always been at odds with the swamp witch (Naomi Harris; Skyfall, Spectre).

If this was all starting to sound a bit crazy, hold on, there’s more.  This movie features ship-to-world flipping, the edge of the world, a zoinked out Jack, catastrophic whirlpools and destructive armada seafaring battles.  We also follow the trajectories of two pairs of love interests (sort of hinting at a third, and joking a fourth), with one (Elizabeth and Will) spanning the entire franchise thus far and another that I dare not spoil (because it’s neat and sort of integral to the plot).

But despite all its craziness, it has brought clever and satisfying semblance to some formerly trivial familiarities (e.g., the wooden eye, the swamp witch, how Davy Jones got his tentacle beard).  Not only that, but we build the mythology of the trilogy (now one of five films).  We have added a God, a Pirate King, the actual Pirates’ Code and power structure, and the supernatural rules governing the Flying Dutchman and its captain’s heart.  These concepts are so cool but…I won’t say they fall flat. But they miss the mark a little.

You see, this is an immensely entertaining Summer blockbuster popcorn flick.  However, at the end of the day, this strikes me as by far the least impressive of the first three Pirates films.  I can rewatch The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) forever and I’d subsequently enjoy following it up with Dead Man’s Chest (2006).  But I’m content to say that At World’s End will be viewed the least of the three.  Sure, the action is fun (loads in fact) and the effects are solid (especially Davy Jones and his Flying Dutchman crew), but the urgency really isn’t there and I just don’t care what happens between my oohs and aahs.

It almost feels like four or even five film plots of conflicting motives and love interests and good guys and bad guys got shoehorned into one messy trilogy.  It makes it hard to get invested, but there’s a lot of neat stuff here, too.

This third epic installment closes just as its predecessors: with an in-your-face revelation of what adventure is to come next!

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