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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End

Jack Sparrow and his lady friends

Just came back from the My.fm-organized preview of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (I'll refer it as POTC3 in this review) with my dad.

I liked the first POTC movie a lot, was entertained by the second one (dazzled by the visual effects, amused by Jack Sparrow... that's it). My review of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean movie last year was somewhat positive, probably because I felt it delivered what SUPERMAN RETURNS couldn't. Yet POTC2 is pretty forgettable, and having forgotten much of the plot in that movie despite having only seen it a year ago, I had some trouble trying to follow the plot of this movie.

The strengths of the more epic and darker POTC3 are similar to POTC2's (unsurprising, since both films were shot back-to-back), visually stunning, awesome set pieces, occasionally funny, nice highlight moments for Johnny Depp's iconic Jack Sparrow. Unfortunately, it also has POTC2's weaknesses, like being rather dull when there aren't any action nor comedy, and characters have to provide expository dialogue to explain character motivations and the plot we are going through. But I think POTC3 is a more satisfying film because it has a sense of closure, and also because Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa (villain of the first movie), and his surprise appearance at the last shot of POTC2 was, to me, one of the best parts of that movie!

Barbossa, thanks to Rush's wonderful (but definitely overlooked) performance, is one of the highlights of the movie. I guess his absence is what made POTC2 so... lacking. And with him around now, his constant bickering and funny rivalry with Jack Sparrow really injects some fire into the film. So yes, Barbossa rocks!

So yes, while there are many fun parts in POTC3, and yes, it's really visually mindblowing, I am still slightly underwhelmed by certain aspects of the film. Mostly because it feels quite convoluted, to the point where I have no idea what was happening half of the time! There are lots of double and triple crossings, political agenda, mythical backstories, multiple sides fighting each other and sometimes changing alliances, all these aren't exactly that engaging, even though they made the film feel epic in scope.

... It's a film based on a Disney ride, and I cannot follow the story! Should I start worrying or not? I'm not sure whether I was alone, that my own intelligence and processing skills have degenerated so badly to the point that I can get confused so easily, but after looking at the reviews available on Rotten Tomatoes now, I guess I'm not the only one having this trouble with PoTC3's plot.

Chow Yun Fat's role as the Chinese pirate lord, Sao Feng, is pretty small (2-3 scenes), and his performance is... I don'tknow, pretty awkward (I think it has to do with the fact that I recently saw him in the Chinese film, THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT, where he was much more natural and charismatic). But at least he gets to be in a major Hollywood box-office blockbuster. Orlando Bloom's Will Turner remains bland and boring (disappointing when, after the end of PoTC2, I expected him to become more interesting). Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann looks good.

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) in Pirates of the Caribbean 3There's really not much I have to say about Johnny Depp anymore, except that the best parts of the film are when he's hallucinating, where he sees many doppelgangers of himself. Jack Sparrow is obviously the highlight of the movie, but he still made me wish that he could do more, instead of kinda being pushed aside as the movie focuses more on the love story between Will and Elizabeth. Jack Sparrow just feels, I don't know, relegated to being merely some kind of a comic relief.

Like I said before, visually, this film is really awe-inspiring, there are moments that are poetic, and the special effects and production designs are really amazing, images and locations that stood out are 18th Century Singapore, sea filled with floating ghosts, Davy's Jones Locker where Jack Sparrow was trapped in, thousands and thousands of industrious little crabs bred from stone, and my favourite, the Shipwreck Cove where all pirate lords from around the world gathered for their brethren meeting. The rousing finale has a battle between two ships swirling around a maelstrom.

There are several lost opportunities, to me, like the whole Calypso subplot (the goddess of the sea, sealed in the body of one mortal), which has a lot to do with Davy Jones' backstory. I have expected something more emotional about this, but it didn't happen. I was also expecting to see the other pirates (they seem very colourful and exotic, being from different parts of the world and all) of the Brethren in action, but that didn't happen either.

In the end, PoTC3, to me, is like a roller-coaster ride, it has its highs and lows, it's good when it's really good, it's bad when it's really bad, and it's unbelievable that it's all in this one film. But still, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 IS better the rather forgettable Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

I won't mind a PoTC4, who doesn't want to see Jack Sparrow again? It's just that, in my opinion, it should be different from the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, since there are characters like Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner who aren't needed in future stories anymore (even in this film, everything between felt tedious and a little boring), kind of a reboot, but please don't let it be a prequel.

Tell me your opinions when you guys have seen the film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End trailer