When I tell people Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is my favourite installment of the Pirates saga, I’m usually met with “really?” or “but…it’s the worst of the three” (now four). At one point I got, “That’s a shame, I thought you had such good taste in films”. It’s certainly not ranked well among critics and I’ll admit at two hours and 47 minutes it’s a big commitment to watch. But for all its faults, and there are many of them, the film is nothing short of magic.
Of course that wasn’t always the case. My first viewing picked up on everything that was wrong with the film. The shaky storyline, the way the film jumps from one character to another without properly exploring any one of them and that the film has more betrayals and plot upheavals than you can poke a stick at.
It’s a bit of a confusing mess at first and the story appears to spiral out of control as the producers turn things up to 11. But, like many other great films, a second viewing was essential to grasp some of the finer points. The second time I was able to ignore my better instincts and appreciate the film for all the bits that made At World’s End a success.
It’s filled with many a poignant scene, from the gloomy opener where we see hundreds of pirates heading for the noose (enough to give anyone chills) to the final hurrah where our heartthrob, Will Turner, is doomed to spend the rest of his life captaining The Flying Dutchman. We’re met with wondrous new settings and edge-of-your-seat action, plus there are some scenes that can be described as nothing short of genius.
Let’s forget the first half hour of the film and start where the film should have. Our first encounter with Jack is in an existential limbo where he argues with his crew of doppelgangers aboard a stranded ship. His otherworldly existence is soon interrupted as our motley crew of pirates and pirate wannabes turn up and bring Jack safely back to the land of the living – complete with some amazing visuals.
The story isn’t quiet linear after this point as Elizabeth ends up on a Singaporean pirate ship – which she awkwardly becomes captain of after a near sexual assault (is this a Disney film?), Will ends up onboard the Flying Dutchman in cahoots with Lord Beckett (what?) and Jack Sparrow is yet again head to head with Captain Barbossa on board the Black Pearl. All confusion aside, we meet the pirate council and strap ourselves in as the pirates of the world prepare for war against Davey Jones and his captor, Lord Beckett. Meanwhile the ‘good’ pirates set the goddess-of-the-sea, Calypso, free and we learn of her love tryst with Davey Jones.
The film relies heavily on its viewers having seen the previous films. If you’ve kept up with the storyline by this point though, the rest sort of falls into place in a whirlwind of sword fights, gallantry and heartfelt moments. However, not without the final bombshell that effectively ends part of the saga forever – wait until the end of the credits for more.
At World’s End is a visual feast, well surpassing its predecessors. The overindulgent film is creative to the utmost and brings a sense of enormity and character to a world we’ve only scratched the surface of thus far. All criticism aside, future films in the saga have a lot to live up to.