Quick-Thoughts – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

?? Viewing

That was easily the best marriage proposal/wedding ceremony of all-time. 

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World Ends opens with a massacre lineup of convicted pirates being hanged in an almost factory-like style; what could’ve continued on a subject matter more interesting is ultimately wasted for the genericness that increases throughout the film’s runtime. However, what follows this opening is possibly my favorite set-piece of this entire franchise, an almost Mishima-esc miniature Chinese town set right in the middle of a murky lake. It’s funny how similar this sequence is to the opening of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi after being born from Dead Man’s Chest, which I had mentioned beforehand is comparable to The Empire Strikes Back. The opening involves a failed plan to reason and a coexisting plan to infiltrate the location to save a beloved comrade, except instead of Han Solo it’s Orlando Bloom. To our shock, the lead “protagonist” of this franchise doesn’t even come in until past the thirty-minute mark.

2007 really was the year where creative directors working on their third movie in a franchise were held at gunpoint by about a dozen execs being asked to formulate the movie down and dry out a swig of the comedy that made the franchise likable in the first place and replace it with two and a half f**king hours of treaty negotiations and wives’-tale-leveled character arcs taken directly out of off-brand children’s novels. There’s an epic climax at the end here though that I’ll get into more detail later, but I’m more impressed that real people actually nodded up and down at each other and said: “yes, a follow-up movie about pirates coming together from around the world to fight squid monsters should be THREE hours long and taken more ‘seriously’ than the previous movies.”

I keep forgetting how good Verbinski is at doing dream or vision sequences, and the one’s that Jack Sparrow observes in At World’s End are surrealy constructed like sketch-comedy. The upside down ship was also cool too, I guess. It’s funny how towards the second half of At World’s End it starts becoming a swashbuckling Dr. Strangelove, where the leading pirates are consulted together to discuss the end of the world situation at hand. It’s almost like a “we need to work together despite our differences” to defeat the “true enemy” situation, where it’s this big build up to a final 1v1 battle that’s about to happen.

“Do you think he plans it all out, or just makes it up as he goes along?”

What a perfect allegory for this movie since the plot just bulls**ts itself as it goes along; this has kind of always been the franchise’s method in many cases, but this movie takes it to a whole other length where it starts to feel more like an over 2 hour TV episode followed by a season finale rather than a motion picture. The random locationing I couldn’t tell if I liked or hated given how overly euphoric it tries to make them look; all the slow-mo FX effects porn though I was fine with; style > substance sometimes catches me savvy as long as it doesn’t feel excessively out of place. I especially hated all the forced and contradicting character arcs in this sequel, as well; if you thought Dead Man’s Chest was a mess then this will exceed your expectations for a three hour follow-up more than you could’ve ever imagined. The gap between the opening of At World’s End and the final battle, is filled with virtually nothing but exhausting story lore building and deadbeat conversations — I was seriously getting flashbacks to the counsel scenes from George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels. Anything, involving Jack Sparrow of course, begs to differ, but the movie is far too fed up in story logistics to insight build-up than recapturing a bit more leisure like the first and even second movie did, not taking itself too seriously in the stakes and logistical departments and just more so in the absurdities of its situation. 

I do like bits and pieces of the first 20 minutes of the final 40 minutes of At World’s End though: just a full out, shameless visual accomplishment of a sea war spectacle, with the expected humor influences of the franchise’s love for The Three Stooges and the musical-like stunt work. Yet, once again, when the film starts attempting to integrate these tacky sentimental values of drama upon our main characters, it feels so artificial and primary especially when slotted alongside its predecessors. It goes for the generic cop-out rather than abiding with how much more exciting it was to not take the journey, friendship, or betrayals too seriously, because like a pirate, you should always feel jaded and fooled in your own confusion or interpretations of right or wrong. I hate how the long-anticipated war concludes though in just under twenty minutes and is furthermore burdened by the badgering of those cliché dramatic tensions as well. No movie should d**k around that long to miserably pay us off with a finale this limited on the franchise’s best trait being absurdist comedy, betraying it for the classic hero’s/winner’s happily-ever-after conclusion.

At World’s End goes for The Rise of Skywalker “bigger is better” philosophy with a dire gathering for war narrative and a pathetic yearning to touch the epicness of a Lord of the Rings-type story and scale. The costumes are especially on FLEEK though in this entry, admittedly, so at least we have that. And, “no”, I will not be rewatching nor reviewing Pirates 4 & 5 after this for reasons that I’d hope come as obvious. Especially, 5… *shivers*

Verdict: C

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is now available to stream on Disney+.

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