Warning: Spoilers! Sort of …
To fully appreciate how fast and loose the writers of Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End play with comprehensibility and plot, look no further than the differing explanations as to why Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa was easier to rescue from death than is Johnny Depp’s Cap’n Jack Sparrow. “Barbossa,” says the loony Cajun lady from Dead Man’s Chest, “was merely dead.” Jack, it transpires, has gone to a far far worse place – Davy Jones’s Locker, a realm that looks a lot like Utah and which is populated by dozens of replica Cap’n Jacks, one of whom is a chicken.
Oh well that’s alright then.
At World’s End has a plot (I think) … it’s just buried beneath a thousand tons of … well … fuck knows. We never find out why Barbossa was easier to rescue past the fact he was ‘just dead’, and we never really find out why Jack was, in fact, a damned-sight easier to rescue than we’d been led to believe. Suffice it to say Jack is rescued and then lots of other stuff happens. And I mean LOTS of stuff … nearly three bloody hours worth.
The story, for what it’s worth, goes something like this: Jack needs rescuing because he’s one of nine pirate lords who each hold one of the fabled nine pieces of eight. Barbossa needs to rescue Jack so Jack can cast his vote at a meeting of the nine pirate lords. He also needs The Black Pearl to fight Davy Jones who is now in the employ of Lord Beckett because Lord Beckett has Davy Jones’s heart. Elizabeth Swann and the stupefyingly dull Will Turner aren’t on the best of terms because Elizabeth betrayed Jack and Will has betrayed everyone else. Will, y’see, needs the Pearl to rescue his dad Bootstrap from Davy Jones who, in turn, has some unfinished business with the bonkers Cajun lady from Dead Man’s Chest.
There are a lot of betrayals. Jack betrays all of the pirates at the big pirate conference. Will betrays Jack and Elizabeth. Elizabeth betrays somebody … possibly Chow-Yun Fat’s Sao Feng (he betrays everyone as well). The crazy Cajun lady betrays everyone because she is an angry Goddess. Davy Jones betrays Lord Beckett. Barbossa betrays everyone … yadda yadda yadda. There are many many double-crosses, most of which make very little sense. For most of the running time you won’t fully comprehend why a particular character has turned round and betrayed everyone – nor will you understand why they are later back fighting for the side they betrayed without the side they betrayed being in the least bit miffed. I felt betrayed by this.
To add to the confusion, most of the cast die at least once. This doesn’t matter much because death isn’t a particular barrier to carrying on living your life. By the movie’s conclusion you do wonder who’s still alive, who’s now immortal, who is actually properly dead and, of course, what the fuck is going on.
To give it its dues, At World’s End looks beautiful. The sets, costumes, CGI work and props are faultless, magnificent, gorgeous achievements. The pirate ships, especially in the climactic battle scene, are glorious. The whole design of the movie at times takes your breath away … which it should do when you consider it cost $250 million dollars to make. If somebody doesn’t win an award for the effort made over making a film look this good, there’s no justice in this world.
It’s just a shame they didn’t spend some of that money sorting out the plot, the overwhelming mass of separate story-lines, or the horrendous sound mix. Half the time you can’t hear yourself think. As pirates bellow at one another in a series of unintelligible accents, Hans Zimmer’s overblown score thunders out, physically assaulting your ears and making understanding what anyone is saying an impossiblity. Perhaps this is why I couldn’t understand what was happening half the time – I couldn’t bloody hear it over the score.
In conclusion Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End is a monstrous, garbled, beautiful, bonkers, boring, noisy, hallucinogenic mess. It is worth watching because I can’t recall ever seeing a film looking this fantastic ever, and some of its set-pieces make your jaw drop to the floor. Just don’t expect to understand what’s going on or even, ultimately, to care.