" Be careful of the deadfall "
— Anthony Hopkins, The Edge

MRQE Top Critic

Les Choristes

The French confection Les Choristes is now available on a skimpy, movie-only DVD —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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At World’s End is not without its faults, but it still serves as a grandiose adventure and a terrific send off… for at least a few of the trilogy’s characters.

Hoist the Colors High

Sao Feng has only one reason to help bring Jack back from the land of the dead
Sao Feng has only one reason to help bring Jack back from the land of the dead

For those who know and adore Cap’n Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands), let’s quickly get the bad news out of the way. At nearly three hours, this installment runs a little long. And Jack’s rescue is a somewhat tedious affair (come on now, it’s as obvious he returns as did Spock in The Search for Spock and Han Solo in Return of the Jedi). Also, Jack’s introduction this time around isn’t as witty as his intro in the prior two flicks, but he does make some compensation by way of two introductions.

But there you have it. That’s the bad stuff. And to say this one runs long really isn’t much of a complaint considering at its very worst At World’s End always offers something interesting to look at. In other words, this one definitely provides a worthwhile bang for the doubloon. Savvy?

In filling out that hefty running time, director Gore Verbinski indulges in some tangential material that is really unnecessary. However, taking as an example the opening sequence in which numerous pirates and those who aid and abet them are sent to the gallows, many times that material in and of itself is pretty cool. Scenes like that add atmosphere, nifty hues, and a touch of foreshadowing to the already Technicolor world of Cap’n Jack. Most movies these days don’t put in that kind of effort.

Besides, writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio established enough goodwill with their work on the first two installments to warrant patience through the self-indulgence. They fairly skillfully weave the threads together, creating a canvas upon which to stage a spectacular climax.

It’s Hard Out There for a Pirate

Actually, there’s so much chicanery in this unusually story-heavy sequel that it easily warrants a repeat viewing in order to take in all the machinations.

At World’s End begins shortly after the events of Dead Man’s Chest. The good guys, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice), Will Turner (Orlanda Bloom, Kingdom of Heaven), Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris, After the Sunset), and, yes, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, Shine) are in Singapore, their mission to rescue Jack in full swing.

They’re in need of a map and the owner of said map is Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat, The Replacement Killers). He’s got only one reason to help bring Jack back from the land of the dead and that is so he could send him right back there personally.

Suffice it to say from this point forward the lives of all the main characters (and a load of minor players) become inexorably intertwined. Topping it off, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, Love Actually) is out there terrorizing the high seas and serving as the focal point of the storm brewing at the world’s nethermost point.

It’s gotten hard out there for the pirates; the only way they can turn a profit is by betraying each other. But perhaps by rescuing Jack, convening something called the Brethren Court, naming a new Pirate King, and unleashing Calypso, the former love of Davy’s life who is now cursed to live in human form, Davy could be defeated, and, with a little luck, the East India Company might go down with him, thus restoring the high seas to good ol” fashioned pirating.

Do you still savvy?

The Pirate Queen

Of course, there are loads of subplots that swim these waters. By pulling in the Brethren Court, a meeting of the nine pirate lords (Barbossa and Sparrow are among their ranks), this Pirates episode greatly expands the pirate world. And, even with its busy agenda wrapping up loose ends, the story still finds time to pull in a trove of high seas legends, including a more pronounced take on the superstition that women are bad luck on seafaring vessels (hence the male-dominated modern-day navies).

As for those loose ends, Will wants to free his father from the clutches of Davy Jones; Elizabeth has her own burden to bear as well as a surprise involving her father; and Jack… Well, Jack’s Jack, mate and, besides trying to get his issues with Davy Jones behind him, he is reunited with his father, who is none other than Cap’n Teague (Keith Richards, one of the legendary Rolling Stones).

Speaking of Richards, the man’s role is small but entertaining. While the circumstances of his appearance are somewhat humorous and involve a very, very large book, his part is of a surprisingly sober nature considering how Jack’s loopy mannerisms are genetic.

Even though the humorous aspects are somewhat toned down this time around, the series’ trademark wordplay and wit is still dished out in even doses throughout the movie. That’s where the longer-than-average run time also works to the movie’s advantage; it allows plenty of room for humor, adventure, drama, and romance.

Following the end credits of the first two movies, Verbinski and company added one last sight gag. This time, though, they’ve upped the ante and staying through the end credits is simply a must. The reward is a nifty final scene involving a couple of the main characters.

And, happily, like Indiana Jones (who’ll return to the big screen next year), the door is left wide open for more adventures with Cap’n Jack.