The Movie Binge

Group Review: The Pirates of the
Caribbean: At World's End

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Ed: Your prayers have been answered! For the second year in a row, we're gonna kick off the first week of the Binge with a group review. Not everyone is taking a crack, but you'll take what we're offering and you'll like it. No, you'll love it. Or else. Enjoy!

What say ye, Erik?

My father used to tell me that you can make God laugh by making a plan. This movie would have Him clutching His ineffable belly as He rolled cackling for breath in the aisles. The characters make more strident and complicated plans than your health insurance provider every chance they get. I gave up trying to follow the plot of the film somewhere in the middle when it finally struck me that not only is it completely irrelevant, but the plot changes every ten minutes. If you don't like the plot you're watching, just sit tight because it'll be completely redirected, most likely in the service of fulfilling whatever pirate-related cliché they haven't already completely run into the ground by this third installment, which is few.

Which is not to say that the film isn't enjoyable. Its merit lies in every opportunity it takes to cut through the irksome seriousness of its continually convoluted plotlines with a well-placed reaction smirk, usually supplied by the monkey. The monkey, named after Depp's still-entertaining leading captain, is by far the best part of the movie. The monkey handler deserves a lot of credit for his or her work. If only Knightley and Bloom's handlers could have put in as much. Their tepid romance continues to be the least credible aspect in a slew of remarkably incredible events. Whenever they attempt a longing look into each other's eyes, the audience suffers for having all the fun sucked out of the theater. Their impromptu marriage amidst the spectacular final battle was the most extravagant and unnecessary of all of Pirates' extravagant and unnecessary set pieces.

The best scene was a glimpse into Captain Sparrow's afterlife in Davy Jones's Locker. If Depp is the most consistently entertaining part of the movie, then why not multiply his effectiveness by introducing, like, 30 more of him? As captain to a whole crew of Sparrows stuck on a landlocked ship, bickering, ordering, and killing each other at whim, the film's senseless absurdity, for a few enigmatic moments, actually reaches a kind of inspired lunacy. It's also one of the few sequences in the film where the increasingly cloying supporting cast doesn't get in the way of Depp's hilarity. Once Sparrow departs from this death-defying madness, however, the reality of the film returns to it's tedious plot-driven inanity with only brief flashes of wit and much needed self-mockery.

Oh yeah, and Keith Richards is in it. They obviously didn't know what to do with him, which is why for half of the three minutes of screen time he gets, he's stuck idly strumming a guitar. Come on.

What say ye, Dan?

I know a lot about pirates. I know they wear bandannas. I know they're comfortable with having dreadlocks. I know they love the water. But I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie this weekend, and learned some things I didn't know:

1. Pirates will always double-cross you. Even if they've done it literally ten times before. They don't get tired of it.
2. Pirates are way smarter than they seem. I know they sound drunk when they talk about Davy Jones' Locker, and Calypso the weather witch, and the edge-of-the-world waterfall, but they're right about all of that stuff. None of it's wrong.
3. Pirates, though completely removed from regular society, and constantly facing their death head-on, are very good at controlling their sexual urges. They're damn noble, in fact.

Being more of an expert on ships, I only learned one thing about ships:

1. There are ropes everywhere, non-essential ropes, that are strung so tight, if snapped, they will launch you 50 feet into the air. That happened like 8 times in the movie, so I'm guessing it's pretty common.

I also got confused at one point in the evening (and I do mean my entire evening, and most of my scheduled sleep-time); I thought it was last summer and I was watching X-men. I've prepared a picto-chart to show you what I mean: Will is just like Cyclops 'cause they're both boring and yet they're like the leader for some reason, Sparrow is like Wolverine 'cause they're both named after vicious animals and they're the one everyone wants to watch, Calypso is like Storm because they both control the weather (and racial reasons), and that one hairy pirate is like Beast because they look the same (their facial reasons).

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What say ye, Matt?

You will not be surprised to learn that the newest Pirates installment included swashbuckling, swords, rum, wooden prostheses and a touch of habberdashery (there was more, but budget cuts will leave us forever wondering). If you are at all familiar with Jerry Bruckheimer, you will also not be surprised to learn that there is a shoddily tacked-on romantic subplot that 98% of the audience couldn't give two shits about. In fact, if you ignored any conversations that involved both Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Knightley), this was a damn enjoyable film. Unfortunately, the At World's Mend edit hasn't shown up on the internet yet, so we're left wondering why Bruckheimer, and to be fair, every other blockbuster director, insists on inserting worthless love stories into action movies.

Let's look back briefly at Bruckheimer's history. Recently we have Nicholas Cage gettin' his mack on with Diane Kruger in National Treasure and Angelina Jolie in Gone in 60 Seconds. Traveling back further we have Lawrence and Smith loving all the ladies while they blow shit up in Bad Boys and Eddie Murphy finding time for some loving in Beverly Hills Cop. I think the only time it worked, and I really shouldn't admit this, is in Armageddon. It's safe to say this is the quintessential Jerry movie since he somehow made a tryst between Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler appealing. That takes talent, people.

As for At World's End, Brucky is just getting lazy. There was a slight whiff of romance between the lovebirds, but most of the time they were trying to kill themselves to save their fathers, not sneak away for some pirate nookie. About two hours into the film, during the ultimate battle sequence, someone at the editing bay woke up and decided it would be a good time for a wedding. Er, what? It was ridiculous at best and soul-crushing at worst. Thank God for both Jacks (the monkey and pirate) as they balanced out this nonsense. If they do indeed make a fourth Pirates I propose they ditch every other character and name it, Pirates of the Caribbean: A Monkey, a Drunkard and a Lifetime in Davy Jones' Closet of Hallucinations. You'll thank me.

What say ye, Meg?

If the first Pirates was like that day your nastiest co-worker brought in cupcakes, and the second was like that day your boss told you that this .04% raise was completely out of his control but hey there's always bonus season right, then the third is like the day a band of jungle faeries from just beneath the Earth's crust just up and bashed your office window in for the sake of spiriting you away to a new career riding jockey for the finest ostrich-polo team yet assembled in the galaxy. I'd go so far as to say that Misters Verbinski, Elliott, and Rossio (our director and our writers) are nutbat crazy, except for how it's become clear that all along they've just been staging an elaborate live-action Merrie Melody. (Don't tell Disney about that part.)

The francise's best asset is not just Mr. Depp's ability to set up camp, live in camp, strike camp, and then set up a newly ironic camp a few beats later. The films now have a full set of morally ambiguous protagonists, all of whom can apparently do whatever they want for whatever reason they want and not explain it so long as they have a chill CG effect nearby. The result is a script that loves absurdism more than characterization and an experience not unlike the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride. There's a slow ride in a creaky boat, a couple of scary drops in the dark, some questionable portrayals of women, and a really, really creepy song. Plus that dog with the keys. He gets me every time.

Comments

I know it's pretty late in the game, but I just wanted to let you know that I linked to your article in my own review. Thanks!

The first Pirates of the Caribbean was great, not too sure about the other two, tho the special effects were top notch of course. if they come out with a fourth will it maintain the quality of the first?

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