Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann
Tom Hollander as Lord Cutler Beckett
Bill Nighy as Davy Jones
Chow Yun-Fat as Captain Sao Feng
Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma
Jack Davenport as Captain Norrington
Keith Richards as Captain Teague
Jonathan Pryce as Governor Weatherby Swann
Lee Arenberg as Pintel
Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti
Kevin McNally as Gibbs
David Bailie as Cotton
Stellan Skarsgård as 'Bootstrap' Bill Turner
Martin Klebba as Marty
Is it possible for a movie franchise to become a shadow of its former self if its former self is a theme park ride? Probably not, but this third "Pirates" movie is frustrating, over-long and, at times, just plain bad.
The story is a direct continuation from "Dead Man's Chest." The beloved Captain Jack Sparrow is gone, a resident of Davy Jones' Locker. While the heroes of the Black Pearl set out to rescue Jack from the "other side," Lord Cutler Beckett and the East India Trading Company has set out to destroy every man, woman and child that has ever had anything to do with piracy. Now in possession of the heart of Davy Jones, Beckett commands the Flying Dutchmen to lead his crusade against the remaining pirates at sea.
"At World's End" is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images.
The studio has asked that we keep our reviews as spoiler free as possible. That's a tall order given all that happens in AWE, but I'll give it a shot. Having filmed "Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End" at the same time, the entire cast is back for the trilogy finale. Johnny Depp's Sparrow is still a great character and gets a few more laughs this time around as opposed to DMC.
The action sequences and CGI work is where AWE really shines. Pity that there aren't more action sequences, especially given the near perfect set-up for one of the most intense sea battles ever filmed… but more on that later.
Davy Jones is again a feat of modern effects… and Bill Nighy deserves kudos for bringing ol' squid face to life. Chow Yun-Fat also deserves praise as the moisture-hungry pirate Sao Feng. The return of the excellent Geoffrey Rush as ruthless Captain Barbossa also gives the movie added weight missing from most of the last film.
The filmmakers get credit for tieing up about every loose end from DMC even if a few moves are clumsy and questionable. I did like the way the big questions are reconciled at the end of the movie, which comes very close to ending where "Curse of the Black Pearl" began.
What Didn't Work:
Wow. Where to start? I guess with the disappointment that is Davy Jones' Locker. Now, I'm no scholar of historic sailor tales by any stretch, but if someone were to ask me to describe what I thought the Locker would look like it would be a dark, wet place beyond the ocean depths full of mournful souls that met their unfortunate deaths at sea. Well, what it turns out to be in the film is the EXACT opposite of that – very well lit, very dry and occupied solely, it seems, by Jack Sparrow. At first I was confused about just where Jack was supposed to be. The stark nothingness of the Locker smacked of a budget compromise.
The fact dovetails nicely into my second issue – Jack's Locker experience. Again, staying away from too much detail, this sequence is a strange Terry Gilliam wannabe oddity that drags on WAY too long, and brings into play a rather unfortunate schizophrenic element to Sparrow that hangs around for most of the rest of the movie.
Next, the Pirate court and all of these new pirate characters – a half-dozen or so Pirate Lords and their crews as it were come together and elect to fight for their very survival against an armada of 30-plus ships under the control of Beckett and the East India Trading Company. They man their ships, raise their colors, unsheathe their swords and then proceed to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Nope, nothing to see here… unless your interested in a battle between the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl. Oh wait, you saw that in the last movie? Uh… okay, we'll throw in a whirlpool! Very weak and not the big payoff a lot of fans were probably hoping to see.
Fourth, we have the Calypso storyline. I get where this is coming from, but it is executed so poorly and again the payoff is SO BAD. You know about Calypso and the man she loved, just under different names – and if you were able to spot the matching, silver crab-shaped music boxes in the last film, you know what I mean. Barbossa wants Calypso to help save the pirates. It is really unclear what Calypso wants, but we know she's not happy. The ceremony to unbind Calypso from her human form might be the most unintentionally comical moment in movies in recent history. It is laugh-out-loud goofy.
Fifth is the fate of our friends. I won't comment specifically, but there are a few characters from the previous two films that deserve better ends than those there to greet them in AWE.
The slow pace of the first act, the confusion-ladened second act and under-achieving third act doom AWE to the deserving moniker of "Worst Film in the Series," but that still means it's better than a lot of what Hollywood has offered up lately. And, yes, you'll need to postpone that visit to the restroom until after the credits role to catch a glimpse of the future.