On Second Thought: “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

When one sequel isn’t enough, make another. Granted, you have no choice if the film franchise was envisioned first as a trilogy, or so the story goes. Either way, hopefully the creative minds behind the latest film have put enough thought into the story. If not, the only thing they’ll end up with a supremely disappointed audience who deserved much more than what they got. It’s a tough act to come through on, but some do in fact manage.

The Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures film “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, has an action packed adventure in there, but it’s too muddled by just about everything that brings this lengthy film to life.

This action adventure stars Johnny Depp (“Mortdecai”, “Into the Woods”), Orlando Bloom (“Zulu”, “The Three Musketeers”), Keira Knightley (“Laggies”, “Begin Again”), Stallan Skarsgard (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Cinderella (2015)”), Bill Nighy (“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “Turks & Caicos”), Chow Yun-fat (upcoming “The Monkey King: The Legend Begins”, “From Vegas to Macau III”), Geoffrey Rush (“Minions”, “The Book Thief”), Jack Davenport (“Smash”, “The Key Man”), Kevin R. McNally (“Count Arthur Strong”, “24: Live Another Day”), Naomie Harris (upcoming “Collateral Beauty”, “Our Kind of Traitor”), Tom Hollander (“Doctor Thorne”, “The Night Manager”), and Jonathan Pryce (“Rough”, “Narcopolis”).

The film was directed by Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”) and written by Ted Elliott (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”) and Terry Rossio (“Turbo Dates”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”).

It originally opened on May 25, 2007. It would go on to be nominated for two Academy Awards; one BAFTA Award; and four Saturn Awards, winning one among several other nominations and wins.

I knew this one was going to be tough, but I didn’t realize how tough. Mind you, I went into this overly long film dreading the length, and my day got a bit more impacted than I had originally planned. Oops. Such as it is. On this day, day three, of watching and discussing this epic series, I find myself tired. That’s about it. I’ve had fun, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just exhausted from it. Three days, three films, which actually is more like two days, three films. Anyway, it’s a good reminder of why I need to be better at planning, pacing, and just what I take on. It may be fun, but there is a price to pay. So, since I’m running out of time for today, well, tonight, let’s just jump into this messy film. Hopefully I’ll make sense of why I say that as I’m really, really conflicted about it.

Yesterday I started with all the things I loved, today I’m going to do the reverse. There’s a lot I need to try and convey, so it’s best I do it first and quickly. I hope my fingers can (did) type fast enough.

First, and foremost, it’s too goddamn long!! Yeah, two exclamation points will do.

That’s the only way to sum this up. Sure it’s got some positives, but largely it allowed the writers to go overboard on many scenes. In the end I found that this film was largely filler stuff that stayed too long. You know, all the exposition that wasn’t clunky or came off as such, but was till exposition? We got the point early on, but it just kept going. Take the scene where the pirate council, or whatever, is discussing the idea of releasing Calypso, and everything else that comes up. I get wanting to see these other pirates and explore the world a bit more, but after awhile, I got bored. I wanted to move on! I didn’t care about most of the other antics, and let’s face it, that’s what they were. Purely created to try and allow for other quirky characters to come into existence and make the audience laugh along the way, which is what happened a bit, but still it wasted time.

Take this other scene. Much more brief, but could’ve still gotten to the main event, and moved on a lot faster. When the pirates are all readying to release Calypso. Rush, in only the special way he can do, gathered his items needed to release this mighty God, and was ready to say the proper incantation, but first, he had to spell it out for the crew, and us. In doing so, it wasted time, but that’s not the worst of it. When he tried doing it proper, it didn’t work. It was all some big joke. No really it was. It was a gag. Then comes one of the idiot sidekick pirates, and he was able to complete it. I’m surprised that the writers didn’t go overboard here, especially as they liked to pick up that stick and beat away at the horse.

All these type of scenes, again, there were many, only allowed for me to get even more confused. At some point, I had to stop and think, twice really, about what the hell was going on. I could no longer see how we got from A to B to C to D, and how in the hell we were going to get to E. No idea. I had no idea how anything connected. Well, that’s what happens when the writers decide to cram even more into one film, than they did previously! Seriously! This film could’ve been two separate films. Probably should’ve been. Thankfully it wasn’t. Now, I know some great stuff came out of these scenes, or after these scenes, but having to sit through them all, really hurt everything else that came about. I’m surprised that I managed to enjoy the epic finale battle.

I hate when items or bits of a characters previously undisclosed past becomes important. It’s almost like retconning. The biggest one is Nighy’s character and his locker, which is the same one Harris’ character, Tia Dalma wears. We see him first plucking away at his piano, and it’s sitting right next to him. He’s getting emotional and even wipes away a tear. What?! Why? Oh, because suddenly he’s thinking back to this love he once had. This bit of information also feeds into why he spent a lot of his time as captain of the Flying Dutchman the way he did. Yeah, not at all convenient. I just got annoyed by that. To me, it’s lazy writing, because, even though I just wrote about the previous film yesterday, and watched it the day before, I can’t recall any moments that really humanized Nighy’s character for us. I don’t remember there being any mention of him not having started out his time as captain as a sea creature-man thing. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but I doubt it.

One negative aspect, which adds an example to why this film was so long, and ultimately just shows how overstuffed and complicated this film got, was all the betrayals. Suddenly everyone’s out for themselves. Last we saw they were in agreement on what they were going to do. Rescue Jack. But apparently, a lot of time has gone by. So much so, that many people who are pirates, suspected of being, associate with or help pirates, are being hanged. Wait, what? Hollander’s Beckett has really gone after pirates, and yet, Jack still isn’t saved. In between this time, people have drifted apart and are now out to fulfill their own agendas. Which brings us to the first big reveal that no one is who they say they are. Granted, they are pirates, but still, it got irritating. First Yun-fat is betraying them, then Will, then someone makes a deal involving Knightley, and there’s a switch elsewhere and someone else is betraying another. Honestly I hated that entire sequence and all the other times a “twist” came about. I just wanted to get back to the story.

Time really is the unfortunate commonest theme here. I looked at something I scribbled. The idea of repetition just won’t go away. During a lot of the filler stuff (the set ups/exposition), I just felt so much of it, well, was repetitive. It think it mainly had to do with this constant tricking me into thinking something was going to happen, that would move the entire story and film forward, but didn’t. It honestly didn’t. The only thing these characters ended up doing was continuing to take the wrong path because someone stupid was put in charge. The whole fucking thing was detours. One after the other. Someone, like an asshole, forgot the fucking map.

They went the long way around, GODDAMNIT! And that’s what makes this film unbearable. Entertaining at times, but largely unbearable.

Coming in, surprisingly, as unbearable too, is Depp and his shtick. This film series has seriously ruined any and all credibility Depp once had as an actor. It certainly explains why he continues to play the same character time and again, but much worse and more annoying than before this franchise started. I told you, in some way or another, that his character was starting to get annoying, or that it hadn’t yet, but I was more heavily hinting at the fact that he would. And maybe that’s because I was basing this on the last time I saw this film (nine years ago), which might not be fair, but at least I wasn’t wrong. I tried. I really tried, but he largely got on my nerves. His humor was cute for a moment, but then, Elliott and Rossio picked up that fucking stick again. Depp being in Davey Jones’ Locker, and having some kind of psychotic break, makes sense, and I feel they showed this, and it was funny too. Keeping in line with his character. But then these two geniuses decided to keep it up many more times. It wasn’t funny, cute or otherwise. It was unfunny and annoying as hell. I wanted to punch him in the face or hope that he died.

That was the other thing I found surprising this time. Not just that Depp’s quirky comedic character had gotten old, but that a lot of the gags seen in the previous films, done better in the first, were just tired out. Even some of the characters were too. The two sidekick pirates, yeah, I could’ve done with less of them and the idiot guards that worked for Hollander. Even the sequence where Knightley and Bloom get married wore on me. Started out cute, but just went on and on. I’ll give the writers credit for creativity, but that’s it. These things, and more, were no longer funny, or wanted. Oh! I can’t forget that I mentioned the semi-funny releasing of Calypso. This was another one of those scenes. You cold tell that Elliiott and Rossio just spent so much time executing long gags and comedic bits, that they added to the run time. Several moments just didn’t need them. Yes, some of them made me chuckle, but largely this filler idea, is what always came to mind. If you can’t get me to enjoy the humor that came so naturally the first time, you’re clearly doing something wrong.

I believe I did mention there was a lot. Moving right along.

Alright, the happy bits, which also allow for this film to have me so conflicted. There’s a lot I hate, but a lot that’s still well done, that it almost makes it all worth it. It certainly makes for one entertaining film!

As has been the case with the last two films, I have been amazed by the creativity in this film. All the design work that went into bringing this world to life is still on point! The costumes, which included new designs for each of the other groups of pirates, were immaculate! The sets and set decorations were what sealed it all, but so too did the hair and makeup work. And this time, there was a lot of new creative and risky choices for the characters.

I’m about to jolt you, so hold on! The humor was back. Okay, not fully, but in some cases what was attempted just worked. I can’t deny that at all. I wasn’t expecting this, as largely the film wasn’t funny. Yay for surprises.

I almost forgot my favorite. The score. Bigger, more emotional, and familiar. All the things a great score and composer needs. My ears always picked up when I heard familiar cues. Even during the credits, which I accidentally began again twice, were fun to sit through. The score made this possible. I’m definitely determined to learn at least the main theme, so that whenever I feel like it, I can hum it or whistle it to the best of my abilities. It really is the small things in life.

The best things still, are the impeccable visuals and fight sequences. Okay, really fight sequence, but whatever. No, the film’s visuals still look great. Every detail, especially during that big fight at the end of the film, was bigger, longer, and more epic. Hell, it was even more intense! I was fully there, and had fun too. I also timed it, or tried to, the finale fight was about 30 minutes long, with a brief slow moment, but it was still something to get excited about. It definitely makes the whole having to sit through over an hour of nothing worth it, but even more irritating. If it weren’t for the fucking goddamn detours, we could’ve been here much, much sooner! I even appreciated what had been done when they were all trying to come back with Jack, and take on Hollander’s character. That whole ship flip… Cool! I truly think that if Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) hadn’t done the visuals once again, this film would’ve suffered. I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the bits I did.

That’s the weird thing, the collective positive aspects really do make this film bearable and fun, but at the same time, they can’t fully outweigh what I hate. This is why I’m conflicted. I enjoyed the film enough, especially if I look at some moments individually, but as a whole, it’s too much. I think it always will be too much. And just when I thought I was starting to like this film franchise, this film comes along and ruins it.

Some films need a lengthy run time in order to get the story right. I can appreciate this film’s lengthy finale, but the justification for getting there, not so much. For all the incredible things this film achieves, it also managed to lose me, once again, as a fan. I can really only ignore so many things for so long. The fact that this film would sit on my shelf, collecting dust, is reason enough not to ever own it, let alone see it again. If I want something lengthy, especially a third film in a franchise, I’ll go watch “The Return of the King”. At least then I’ll be having a completely good time, all the way through.

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