Review Date: 5/28/06
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Tom Hollander, Chow Yun Fat, Jack Davenport, Stellan Skarsgard, Jonathan Pryce, cameo by Keith Richards
The "Pirates Of The Caribbean" trilogy comes to an incoherent close, resolving little and setting up the cast for future pillaging of the franchise. Continuing where "Dead Man's Chest" (2006) left off, Elizabeth Swann (charming Keira Knightley), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and Capt. Barbossa (excellent Geoffrey Rush) embark on their quest to rescue Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the confines of Davy Jones' Locker. With the heart of Davy Jones in his possession, Lord Beckett (sinister Tom Hollander) rules the seas and confounds our heroes' every move. In order to journey to the end of the world Barbossa needs a ship and a crew, so he engages pirate lord Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat) in an awkward and uncomfortable alliance. Meanwhile, in Davy Jones' Locker Capt. Sparrow has gone mad from his never-ending torment, but manages to save the crew of the Black Pearl from oblivion when they finally arrive to save him. That done, they focus their attention back on the heart of Davy Jones and all of the other promises that it holds. Friends are betrayed, double-crossed, and betrayed again as each of the characters wrestle with fate in an attempt to engineer their own selfish agendas. Ultimately everything boils down to a naval confrontation between a united pirate force represented by the Black Pearl, and the Far East Trading Company represented by the dreaded Flying Dutchman. Friendships are tested and the price of redemption is high, but the underdogs finally come out on top and live to pillage and plunder another day.
What strikes me as utterly absurd about this film is that the pirates are considered "the good guys," fighting for justice and freedom in a world oppressed by corrupt corporations and power-mad dictators. This effectively romanticizes pirates as righteous forces of good instead of the lawless cutthroat criminals that they really are. The social and moral messages of the film are cloudy, confused, and deceptive, but most people won't care because it's really all just about the wild fantasy action. Like its predecessor, the visual effects in the film are superb and seamless. The combat sequences are lush and full of kinetic splendor, and the explosions are brimming over with orgasmic fury as splintered timbers, helpless bodies, and various debris are abundantly and violently tossed about. Truly a feast for the eyes, but unfortunately long-winded and for the most part, unnecessary. Clocking in at nearly three hours in length, the movie is an exercise in excess, trying to cram in as much eye candy and plot twists as possible in an attempt to avoid telling a cohesive narrative.
For the most part the acting is quite good, and surprisingly it's Geoffrey Rush who steals the show this time around. Whereas he seemed unsure of himself in the first film, he truly embraces the character of Barbossa this time and gives a hearty performance. Johnny Depp plays it mostly straight, focusing more on the devious machinations of Jack Sparrow's personality than his ridiculous pomp and swagger. Rather ironic since Keith Richards (Sparrow's prototype) shows up in an amusing but disappointing cameo as Sparrow's father. Whereas Sparrow was portrayed as a despicable cad in the last film, this time he merely appears as a madman who ultimately redeems himself as basically a good hearted person. Keira Knightley definitely sees more action this time around and is delightful to watch swinging a sword and exchanging glances of scorn and disgust with everyone. However, I failed to find her engaging on an emotional level. Orlando Bloom loses his innocent naivete in this installment and has clearly become a pirate himself, which is nice to see. The performances suffer most from inappropriate dialog that tries way too hard to be funny, and the franchise has basically become a self aware mockery of itself. While I never found the film boring, I did find it empty and ultimately unsatisfying.