To get it out of the way, right up front, I liked this movie. As a sequel, it was better than the second installment in the series (something which doesn’t often happen) and as a film in and of itself, it works on a number of levels. The film follows the continuing adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and wraps up, neatly, a number of the open ended plotlines left over from the first two films, Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest. Without too much (and some might say not enough) recapping of previous events, we are immediately pushed into the film’s main plot, which is a good old fashioned us (the pirates) against them (the British) epic in a battle for the freedom of the seven seas.
That said, let’s spend a few sentences talking about that plot. Once you get past the over-arcing themes, director Gore Verbinski throws everything he can possibly think of into this film. At times it feels like he doesn’t think he’s going to get a chance to make another movie so he needs every storyline he’s ever thought of to be included here. And not all of them work. Let’s see, we have the love story of Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), we have Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) returning from the dead, Jack Sparrow in hell and Chow Yun-Fatas a Chinese Pirate who… well… we’re never really sure what he wants. They all want to kill each other but realize they need to work together in order to achieve their goals. And these are the good guys. The bad guys, meanwhile, are led by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander), the original company man. They want to crush the pirates and make the seas safe for themselves.
But first things first, Jack Sparrow needs to be rescued from a hell that would do John Malkovich proud. And rescue him they do, with the help of millions of crabs. They kinda have to rescue him though because he’s needed to participate in some sort of high powered pirate summit meeting.
So the good pirates all gather together and take matters into their own hands and (this is where it gets confusing) gather the nine pirate lords to free the spirit of Calypso, Caribbean goddess of the sea, who will help them destroy Jones and his ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman. So far so good. Except, for some reason, both Barbossa and Sparrow are considered “lords” even though they are captain of the same ship. Not to mention, they have contradicting agendas. See, no one except Barbossa actually wants Calypso free (something to do with the revenge she’ll extract for them imprisoning her in the first place). Then, in an “I didn’t see that one coming” moment of gender bending, Elizabeth Swann is somehow crowned the Pirate King and she casts the deciding vote, thanks of course to Captain Jack’s father (Keith Richards) explaining the pirate code, and send the pirate hordes to war. Then, before anyone can stop him, Barbossa succeeds in releasing Calypso, who’s been with them all along, and she does… nothing.
Are you confused yet? By this time in the film, I don’t think anyone in the audience is quite sure exactly what’s happening… and I don’t think they care much. We are so overwhelmed with action and visuals, it’s not until well past the end of the nearly three hour film we start to wonder about some of the inconsistencies we’ve been presented with. The film succeeds in being entertaining and fun, if not completely coherent.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)