“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” finds a guilty Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), a brooding Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and a scheming Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) united in the quest to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the bad acid trip that is Davy Jones’ Locker. Along their journey, the threesome join up with the Pirate Lord of Singapore Sao-Feng – played to scowling, steam-swathed perfection by the inimitable Chinese actor Chow Yun-Fat – and call the pirate lords of the Brethren Court to convene in a hope to stave off the decimation of pirates everywhere.
The East India Trading Company and its allies are using the badass, barnacle-covered Flying Dutchman of the second film against pirate ships across the seven seas – as well as hanging every man, woman and child convicted of associating with pirates. As for the heroes, it ultimately comes down to the pirates to prevent the conquest of the world in the name of “good business.” For a Disney film, “At World’s End” is surprisingly political, with commentary about the state of civil rights, globalization and the intersection of the military and big business in the post-9/11 world skillfully interwoven into the film’s fantasy-based plot.
Other unexpected treasures in the over two-hour movie include a comedic cameo by Keith Richards, the use of what looks like the actual Disneyland ride for an incredible fight scene and a shocking plot twist toward the end of the movie. There’s also a bonus scene at the tail end of the credits.
This film is a much darker, gorier and more adult version of the pirate fantasy, with the blunt shooting of a woman straight through the head and a pun on male inadequacy signaling that this is not a film for young children. However, it is still a Disney movie, with plenty of over-the-top CGI and the franchise’s trademark wit – sometimes silly, sometimes self-deprecating and always multifaceted enough to please kids and adults alike. The film succeeds visually, with Verbinski’s breathtaking battle scenes interspersed with stunning camera movements, avant-garde hallucinatory moments and creative touches that more than make up for the second movie’s main battle scene, which was more evocative of a hamster wheel than anything else.
Much like the rest of the franchise, the acting in “At World’s End” is stellar. In this installment, Knightley’s character is finally allowed out of the damsel in distress role, proving that she can wield a blade among the best. Bloom gets to tap into his inner brooding bad boy more in this film as well, which provides him with great opportunities for character development. Depp is kooky, captivating and charismatic as usual, as he truly taps into the comedic potential of his character. And, as the newest addition to the franchise’s leading lineup, Chow Yun-Fat proves why he is considered to be one of China’s leading actors, taking a cameo role and giving it considerable meat. In addition, Rush, Bill Nighy and Naomie Harris all turn in performances that turn caricatures into real characters, providing depth and development throughout the film.
Ultimately, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” may have more plot twists and turns than a treasure map, but it ends up being a surprisingly coherent, creative and captivating film capable of bringing out the inner child and appealing to a very adult aesthetic at the same time. In a world where “good business” seems to be the driving force behind most major movies, it’s nice to see a big studio like Disney turning out this treasure of a film as part of one its major moneymaking franchises. Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.