Sunday, June 3, 2007
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END (2007) - Gore Vebinski
There are a lot of mysteries in this world. Who shot JFK... Did Atlantis exist... and how the hell has the Pirates of the Caribbean garnered so much praise from so many people. I remember walking into a cinema in Brisbane while on holiday way back in 2003 and watching the first movie of this franchise. While mildly entertained by Depp and Rush, I found the whole experience rather tedious. The sequel, Dead Man's Chest was one of the most infuriating film experiences I've ever had to sit through. It was a deplorable mess of a film with characters I despised and a story line that was as logical as Paris Hilton's 'celebrity' status. And now I have witnessed the final film in the series, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End starts of with a sub-Return of the Jedi opening where the 'heroes' have to infiltrate a villain's HQ and get something from him. We have Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) go see Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) about a map to Davy Jones' Locker so they can go retrieve Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Meanwhile, the East Indian Trading Company have teamed up with Davy Jones himself (Bill Nighy) in order to eradicate pirate kind from the world. The heroes go get Jack, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) ends up with Davy Jones and his ilk, the heroes go to Shipwreck Cove for an assembly of the Pirate 'brethren' and everyone meets up for the obligatory final battle. That is the story boiled down to it's very basic elements.
Firstly, writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio must be congratulated. They have managed to create the most absurdly overrated trilogy of all time. The first movie was bad. But it was just bad. It was just a basic story with some impressive special effects. Then they wrote Dead Man's Chest, which introduced a whole slew of storylines and a load of new characters, each with their own plot. It was a terrible, terrible film, but as with most trilogies, the second films almost always tend to be the most difficult to pull off, and thus end up being the weakest (The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part II being the exceptions). So it was up to At World's End to tie up loose ends. And here in lies a huge problem. There are so many storylines going on in this film that the majority of the film is spent in exposition. For almost 2 hours, everybody stands around explaining the plot to each other. And for an audience, this is incredibly boring. Adventure films of this kind rely on set-pieces. And yet, the writers have stripped this film of ANY set pieces. There is so much story going on that there is no room for anything exciting to happen and by the time the final confrontation comes along, I found myself not caring what was going to happen and just glad the end was in sight.
And now for the characters. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack. How this character has become so popular is beyond me. Depp is probably the greatest actor of his generation, yet when playing the dreadlocked drunken coward, he is producing the single worst performance of his illustrious career. And yes, I'm including A Nightmare on Elm Street in that list. Here, he continues his limp-wristed, stumbling, slurring Keith Richards imitation to infuriating lengths, still being a character who exalts cowardice and treachery. For the first forty minutes of this boring epic, Depp is nowhere to be seen, yet once he arrives on screen (with about 20 other Depps at the same time), he immediately becomes annoying. There is no depth to Depp in this film. Yet this may be his last turn as Captain Jack, and this is a great thing. Maybe now Depp can return to doing proper performances in decent films.
And then we have Keira Knightly. For the first two movies, she played the damsel in distress. The first movie saw her scream her way through the whole affair while gushing over her pretty-boy blue collar boyfriend, Will Turner. In the second movie, she became a back-stabbing wench, unable to decide between a drunken letch or a girly RADA graduate. In this movie, they try to pass her off as a pirate. In fact, at one point, she becomes the Pirate King, which I guess would make Will Turner the Pirate Queen. Which is quite fitting as Orlando Bloom is so much of a girl in these movies. Knightly tries to pull off being tough, to the point where she has to deliver a rabble-rousing Braveheart style 'they can take our lives, but not our freedom' speech. Yet she cannot drop the lah-de-dah accent. It is yet another plot contrivance that the crowd listening to her isn't reduced to a giggling mess at this appalling attempt at leadership.
And yet Knightly is not the worst actor in the movie. Oh no. Let us not forget Orlando Bloom. Bloom is, without a doubt, the single worst A-List actor working today. In fact, he is so bad, that I am no longer going to waste any time going on about how utterly devoid of acting talent he is.
Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy return as Captain Barbossa and Davy Jones, respectively. To be honest, while I was watching Dead Man's Chest, I noted that the film was really missing something in the absence of Captain Barbossa. When the character did return, I lost patience at how utter stupid a plot contrivance it was. Rush is the only actor in the trilogy who is somewhat believable at being a pirate. But when he's surrounded by such shitty characters, he just gets lost in the mess. Bill Nighy, as Davy Jones, is actually the only interesting thing about these movies. For an actor who is lost under a face full of CGI, he pulls off the film's only notable performance. While Davy Jones' character history and motivations are still a complete mess, Nighy manages to bring enough menace and pain to a character who is essentially a man with an octopus for a head.
The rest of the cast are just the usual mix of cliched adventure stereotypes. You have the grizzled first mate; the idiotic comic relief characters; a stereotypical animal side-kick and a couple of stiff British villains. Truly uninspired writing there, Elliott and Rossio.
Something must be said for the special effects. If there's one thing you cannot fault this film for, it's the visual impact it has.The folks at ILM really are top of their game, and here they prove that. The technical side of the special effects is faultless, and Davy Jones' crew are quite marvelous to look at. Yet, at the same time, there is nothing new about them. In fact, other than more and more plot lines, there is nothing new about this movie at all. The special effects, while technically perfect, have all been seen before. Director Gore Verbinski sure seems to be able to show us shiny CGI, but when it comes to drama and spectacle, he falls flat. The big final battle between the pirates and the East Indian Trading Company builds to the point where you think there's going to be a massive, massive sea battle, but in the end, it's just down to two ships. Every other ship is reduced to being onlookers. It's a build-up that never delivers.
At this point, I've lost interest in saying much more about this series of films. I had a very sneaky suspicion that Gore Verbinski might pull it out of the bag for this movie. Dead Man's Chest was a mess, but it had the difficult task of bridging two movies. This was the chance the director had to pull off quite a coup. Instead, we're left with yet another incoherent, sloppy mess of a film. A film bogged down by an unnecessarily weighty script, characters whose motivations make no sense, performances that are for the most part appalling and a final battle that is absolutely anti-climactic. I really hoped that this would be the end of this rubbish saga. Yet the closing moments leave the film open for another piece of shit sequel. And that, is a sorry state of affairs. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (or At Wit's End) is one of the worst films of the year.