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My Eyes Are On the Sparrow: "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 30 May 2007 02:26

Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Johnny Depp, and Mackenzie Crook in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's EndPIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END

Roughly 30 minutes into Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow makes an entrance that perhaps only Johnny Depp, being directed by Gore Verbinski, would be permitted to make: All we see is Depp's nose, in enormous close-up, as it hungrily sniffs out a peanut. Eventually we're treated to a full view of the sloshed swashbuckler we've been waiting a half hour to see, yet before Sparrow can pop the peanut in his mouth, he's shot dead. By Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow.

Sparrow, you see, is trapped in the Land of the Dead, and in his solitary, food-, water-, and rum-deprived purgatory state, is hallucinating that he is, in fact, surrounded by shipmates, all of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to himself. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's Willy Wonka has turned himself into the Oompa-Loompas.) For a few, brief minutes the audience is given roughly twenty times the Johnny Depp for its money, and it's a pretty fair approximation of the At World's End experience as a whole.

For a big-budget blockbuster sequel, the film doesn't provide as many Big-Budget Blockbuster Moments as maybe it should. But there are so many inspired, quirky, throwaway bits here that At World's End is enjoyable even while you're bemoaning its incoherence and occasional portentousness and the gaping hole that is the movie's romantic sub-plot. What it lacks in clarity is more than made up for in personality and frequent imagination; when the movie works, it works about 20 times better than a preordained mega-hit needs to.

It's not as though the filmmakers seem if care if you're up to speed on the niceties of the movie's plotting, as they so much as tell us so 10 minutes into the film. In the midst of a heated discussion with Singapore's Pirate King (Chow Yun-Fat), Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann begins to deliver catch-up information from the previous film's storyline (a great relief to those of us who couldn't explain Dead Man's Chest's storyline if you paid us to). Yet while she recounts her experiences, the one-eyed pirate played by Mackenzie Crook is seen from the floorboards beneath Elizabeth, salaciously peeking up her dress.

The audience, expectedly, laughs - Crook's gleeful enjoyment of the moment made me laugh, too - and it's not until this sketch-comedy side-bar ends that you realize how much exposition you probably missed while you were laughing. Yet our confusion about the film's many, many plotlines isn't necessarily a detriment here - Verbinski could almost be saying, "Follow the plot, don't follow the plot... we'll amuse you regardless."

For those of us who found Dead Man's Chest a sporadically enthralling but wildly oppressive entertainment, the lightness of At World's End comes as welcome relief, and is never more apparent than in Depp's scenes. In the last Pirates film, the actor seemed to get unjustly Swallow-ed in the relentless shenanigans. Here, though, he seems rejuvenated. Not only do his flouncing movements appear possessed of rediscovered vigor, but his line readings have renewed bite as well; in describing Naomie Harris' mysterious goddess Tia Dalma, the way Depp wraps his besotted tongue around "a woman scorned like which fury hell hath no" is enough to get you giggling.

Once he finally appears, Depp's presence is blessedly continual, but even if he were around far less often, there are always performers giving their roles more passion - and having more fun doing so - than Hollywood blockbusters traditionally allow.

For my money, the best shot in Dead Man's Chest was its very last one, when Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa miraculously returned from the dead; that film sorely needed a blast of the actor's malevolent-pirate shtick. But while Rush's "How the hell did that happen?" resurrection is only marginally explained in At World's End, you could care less about the mechanics involved - Rush is back, and God bless. Throwing his head back and widening his eyes as though channeling Norma Desmond, Rush spits out lines such as "What arrrr you doin'?" with ingratiating vehemence, and Harris is just as wickedly gratifying, her voodoo-priestess delivered with an insinuating purr. Rush's and Harris' character accents are so deliriously, broadly musical that it barely matters what they're saying; their rhythmic mellifluousness provides an enjoyment all its own.

Nearly actor for actor, the cast appears to be having far more fun than they did in Dead Man's Chest, and then you're faced with Orlando Bloom. Now that the Pirates films have (perhaps) run their course, it's probably too late to ask: "What can be done about Orlando Bloom?", but seriously - what can be done about Orlando Bloom? He was just fine as a lightly comic romantic actor in the first Pirates, but he's deadly dull when striving for emotional honesty (and not just in this franchise), and unfortunately, he's almost single-handedly responsible for making large chunks of At World's End not work. Given his drearily self-regarding performance, Will's reunion with his father, played by Stellan Skarsgaard, has little heft - the nearly unrecognizable Skarsgaard provides the plotline's only hints at true feeling - and the mopey tar's climactic, mid-battle proposal to Elizabeth is an embarrassment that briefly stops the movie cold.

Considering everything going on around him, though, it's easy to forget about Bloom. (Or at least find ways to ignore him: In the midst of the film's near-three hour running length, my friend had to use the restroom, and we agreed that any time a scene began with Bloom looking "tormented" was a pretty safe time to go.) We get Bill Nighy again lending legitimate pathos to his squid-faced Jones, the hatefully delightful Teacup Acting of Tom Hollander's Captain Beckett and a (too-short) cameo by the rock icon who served as Sparrow's inspiration. (Strange to say, but Depp's Captain Jack is now more Keith Richards than Keith Richards.) We get Knightley's increasingly spirited Elizabeth, who manages to get herself elected King of the Pirates. (It's that kind of movie.)

And, every once in a while, we do get the Big-Budget Blockbuster moments, which, in this sequel at any rate, are peppered with refreshing hints of artistry; the oceanic battles are more than impressively staged, but just as engrossing is the suggestive creepiness of the Land of the Dead sequence, and a beautifully-staged stand-off, and the comic exuberance of Sparrow's plan for returning from that netherworld... by tipping his rescuers' ship upside down.

Verbinski may never become a lyrical director, like Spielberg or Peter Jackson, but an imaginative one - and one with a true gift for slapstick mayhem - is nothing to shrug at. Neither are the minor moments in At World's End that end up providing major pleasure. I can't argue with claims that the movie is over-produced and unfocused and overly complicated, but I didn't leave feeling gypped. Any Pirates endeavor that finds two miniature Jack Sparrows hanging from their progenitor's cornrows - dispensing advice as if he were Tom Hulce in Animal House - is already providing more than its share of amusement.

Comments (17)Add Comment
written by Luke skywalker, May 30, 2007
Lets face it Spiderman series are better then pirates series (Spiderman 3,Pirates 2 stank).

But star wars is the best of all...........

written by Ricky, May 30, 2007
Don't be so obviously jealous Mike. Orlando was awesome in this film, far better and more improved than in the last two films. He made the ending awesome. Don't get pissy just because he's better looking than you.
written by None of your business, May 30, 2007
Blah blah blah. Doesn't the endless Orlando Bloom bashing get old? Ask the fans of the movie if they like him in it and I believe you will get an overwhelming YES. And we matter more than you. Thanks.
written by Diana, May 30, 2007
I thought the movie was great. Not confusing at all and very funny. But I don't see why Bloom's performance is being criticized in such a negative way. He played out his character Turner accordingly and that was that. What could any other actor have done differently if they'd been in his shoes??? Everybody should just see this or any other movie with one goal in mind. To be entertained and not nit-pick!
written by KaizokuSanji, May 30, 2007
No, let's face the fact that Pirates is the best to come along in a long time. Spiderman is good but not as Great as Pirates so that's why it did this well. Pirates = Amazing. Stupid Critics. Why do we even have critics anyway? All they do now is tell us the audience how stupid we all are for liking what we like and try and force boring ass movies down our throats. Stupid elitists.
written by Valerie, May 30, 2007
I liked the review - nicely done - although I do think there was more to Will then you gave him and you must admit when he comes back to fight that battle with Captain Jack - it was great!!!! Goodbye Beckett! Looking for more of Captain Jack Sparrow that only Johnny Depp can do!
written by ali, May 30, 2007
i'm confused! how can Orlando be condemned and the rest of the actors and actresses be praised? orli is far better than half of the actors on this movie why is he always so heavily criticized?

poor orli!

ali x
written by ya mom, May 31, 2007
looks like someone's jealous much. just cuz your not even half as good looking as Orlando Bloom doesn't give you the right to talk trash about him. I thought he did great.
written by David, May 31, 2007
I think Orlando did a great job of the tragic hero at least he and Keira had more to do this movie than run around screaming like the last pirates. They killed the wrong man Depp should have gone to Davey's Locker instead.
written by Melissa, May 31, 2007
I have to disagree. I being a mild fan of Orlando (yes..he is gorgeous and yes sometimes he really irritates me in a film) thought he did a fine job with the character arch of Will Turner. He was stuffy and uptight in P1. In P2 he was trying to make his way, starting to wheel and deal, if albeit stupidly with inexperience. And by P3, he really was getting the hang of "thinking like Jack". What I DID find annoying was the love story triangle revisited. Everyone knows Elizabeth sent Jack to the Locker as a way to save Will. Enough about Elizabeth really having any true feelings for Jack. Her true feelings were torn between doing the right thing, and like any other spoilt brat..getting her own way. SHE annoys me entirely. She's too angsty as her role as Elizabeth, too whiny. Everything is an issue for her. I get that the entire trilogy was mainly about her arch..about what she became, not who she was going to "wind up with", but I think the person with the most complete character arch was in fact Will Turner. Any actor, given the same material, would have been the same as Orlando's performance. It was fine, and credit is given where it is justly due.

About the multiple Jacks. I felt like I really lost a good portion of my life when I was watching that scene..and the dreadlock hanging Jack scenes. They were information fillers only. It was annoying and unneeded.

Not enough is said about Bill Nighy I'm afraid. He is AMAZING. Davy Jones was so complete in this film, and the parallel between the Davy and Calypso/Will and Elizabeth story is undaunting. There was only one true choice for who is to be the next Dutchman Captain.

I was a huge Jack fan going into the third film, and came out a big Will/Elizabeth supporter. I was completely happy with the plot, yes it had some holes, but don't all films? Like someone recently explained to me, film, like any other open for interpretation.
written by Mariah, May 31, 2007
What exactly were you expecting from Orlando Bloom in this film? Or any of the films? When an actor is given the task of playing straight man/romantic lead next to Johnny Depp's insanely inspired Captain Jack it's an unprecedented challenge. Orlando Bloom played Will Turner brilliantly and just as he should have. POTC.3 is where Will truly started to shine and embrace the character. He was not supposed to be another Captain Jack. He was supposed to be the romantic lead/straight man and he did it quite well.
written by Charlotte, May 31, 2007
You critics have to find fault with every little thing don't you?
Orlando Bloom is a fantastic actor whos character actually evolves over the course of the films. Unlike Captain Sparrow who stays the same. I'd like to see YOU do a better job than Orlando in this film and any of his other ones. (And if you found At World's End confusing, perhaps you should go watch it and number 2 again and actually pay attention to the story this time instead of picking fault with one of the actors.
written by bre, May 31, 2007
who cares orlando is freakin hot as hell :P
written by Kaylen, May 31, 2007
Please don't be a critic to someone who is 10000 times better looking than you!!! I will be honest I am a big fan of Orlando
if you have not guessed I think he is the most dreamy guy in the world. I being somewhat of a critic myself noticed that his performance was not flawless but I thought Orlando’s act was not horrid I thought it was great! Besides, any mistake he makes is covered by his flawless looks. I love you Orlando!!!
written by Annariel, June 01, 2007
The Jack's appearance was so boring!!! God, multiple jacks?? so scary... Orlando was great, Keira was fine... though too much about her, but Geoffrey was marvelous!!! The best scene was the wedding, just splendid!!!
This critic about Orlando more seems that of a whiny child jealous of a better one.
written by SteveD, June 05, 2007
Geesh!, let me try to summarize the prevailing "comment logic" here as 'If you aren't half as good looking as Orlando Bloom you have no right to criticize his film acting'. OKAY, well then, speaking AS SOMEONE WHO IS EVERY BIT AS DARN GOOD LOOKING as Orland Bloom, I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Schulz's critique of him; moreover, I am now greatly relieved because during the entire film (which I very much enjoyed!) every time Bloom moped about I felt annoyed by the same vague gut feeling that I had while watching Hayden Christenson in the Star Wars franchise---and now I can understand why!
And finally, since we're all such excellent judges of male beauty, I can say that I believe Mr. Schulz _is_ indeed half as good looking as Orlando Bloom and thus, by the aforesaid logic of sundry annoyed commentators and by other myriad powers granted to me by me, I say that he has every right to criticize. ---SD
written by tederick, June 14, 2007
Terrific review, just found it, a better take on the flick (which I adore) than most of the ones I've read. Thanks!

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