Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is good. Johnny Depp may or may not be in it. The impish capuchin monkey is back and, at one crucial point, teams with the parrot to save the day.

Um, that’s all I can say.

It has nothing to do with my indifference. This is the first 2007 summer blockbuster worth the constantly turned crank of big-budget filmmaking. It has everything to do with my personal safety.

I don’t need a squad of underpaid Disney interns tying me down and forcing me, a la Clockwork Orange, to re-watch one of the studio’s other based-on-a-ride movies until I say something nice.

Sound silly? You didn’t get a list of what not to do before being allowed into the movie.

In not so many words, bullet points 1, 2 and 3 advised us to essentially say very little about what happens in this trilogy-ending tale.

Fine. I’ll play by that rule.

Ah, you know what? Bring on The Haunted Mansion again. At least it was better than Norbit.

Oh, don’t worry. There are no spiteful spoilers to be found in this review. And besides, there’s no room. At World’s End has a packed plot turned so perpetually hard to starboard that all the rum Captain Jack Sparrow asks about might be less dizzying to your brain than this three-hour tour.

The climax kicks off with a swordfight on the topsail of one of two ships firing on each other while both swirl toward a vortex of supernaturally swirling water. Yeah, there’s a lot going on.

Sprawling and as in need of Venn diagrams for every sextuple cross as it is, At World’s End has subtleties amid its cattywampus craziness. The thrilling, beautifully done final hour finds room for a few emotional payoffs, and a requiem for the Kraken (oops) introduces as much metaphor for modernization as anyone would want from an action movie about pirates.

Wait a minute. If the ship-swallowing creature from Dead Man’s Chest is gone, what of Jack Sparrow (Depp) — last seen jumping into its nasty-breathed mouth? Essentially playing an integral supporting character, there’s still no franchise without Depp’s inspired lunacy. So he’s back.

Did I just hear a car door slam outside?

Still, Jack’s beside himself in Davy Jones’ locker, that undersea place of legend to which the Kraken has sent him. Director Gore Verbinski’s depiction is a trippy bit of hallucinogenic hilarity that feels like a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas holdover for Depp, but tag-teams with his shtick.

Jack has the least likely leader of a mission to return him to the real world — Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who mutinied on Jack’s Black Pearl and became his sworn nemesis.

Rush’s crusty cackling complements the continually distressed love story of Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley). Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio deserve credit for weaving their clash of wanderlust and righteousness so organically into this tale.

I can hear them at my door. There must be dozens of them.

Meanwhile, the East India Trading Company — led by Tom Hollander’s icily evil Lord Cutler Beckett — is out for new world order. Beckett possesses the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and, thus, control of the tentacle-encrusted captain and his unstoppable ship, which Beckett is using to deplete the pirate population. Mounting one last stand for their way of life, the nine pirate lords (presided over by rocker Keith Richards as Jack’s pirate papa) will need plenty of yo-ho persuasion.

Far blacker than the first two films, At World’s End opens on a combination scene of execution and song, the likes of which haven’t been as grimly funny since Monty Python. It’s also likely the first film with a Walt Disney stamp to show a gunshot wound to someone’s head.

That doesn’t mean Verbinski has lost his strong sense of choreographing large-scale fun, such as when heroes find themselves in a real Singapore sling, navigating a waterfall at, well, world’s end, and embroiled in the furious, cataclysmic final battle.

Well, they’ve busted the door down now.

At World’s End isn’t perfect. As pirate lord Captain Sao Feng, Chow Yun-Fat’s beard and fingernails are equally scraggy and unclean, but the uber-cool actor’s stature largely is wasted. And the film’s unsure whether to plainly state, or draw suspense from, one character’s otherworldliness. But it’s clear that the entertainment of this summer season finally has begun with At World’s End.

They’ve got me. $*!_#&! I … will … not … praise … Eddie … Murphy!

An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish: https://letterboxd.com/ragekage79/

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