Friday, May 25, 2007

From the Archive: "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" Review

Film Rating: A–

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Pirates of the Caribbean:
At World's End”
Originally published May 25th, 2007

I can say with complete certainty that I will go to school tomorrow with bags under my eyes, a possible headache from sleep deprivation, and the new musical themes from “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End” still playing in my head over and over. But such is the nature of this fantastic film that I could not even try to go to bed right now if I so desired. No, it's best to get my thoughts on paper so that the bags under my eyes won't be too heavy come morning.

At this point, I would normally do a bit of a plot summary, telling readers details of the beginning of the film, but yesterday, Disney issued a plea to all Critics to abide by the "Critics Code" (much like the Pirates Code heavily discussed in "At World's End") which basically states that I cannot reveal major details of the plot. The dilemma is, what do I say, and what do I refrain from writing?

Hopefully, Disney won't get mad at me for telling readers that the film opens with our heroes (Elizabeth, Will, and devilish anti-hero Barbossa, along with the rest of the crew) in Singapore, searching for Captain Sao-Fang, who can give them essential information on the rescue of Jack Sparrow.From the get go, the film is very plot driven, and even in the big opening action sequences, there are plot twists aplenty. Let's just say our heroes must rescue the good Captain and arrive at a meeting with all 9 Pirate lords, where the future of Pirates will be decided.  

See, Cutler Becket (that little "high and mighty" twerp from Dead Man's Chest) is in possession of Davy Jones’ heart, and is using Jones to destroy Piracy once and for all. Not good for the Pirates of the world, and now they all must decide when and where to make their last stand.

As I said, the plot is full of twists, revelations, unbelievable action set-pieces and totally weird head-scratching moments. You can't take one bathroom brake in the film's 167 minute running time, so I would recommend buying a small drink at the Concession stand. Yes, this film is very long, but felt much shorter than Dead Man's Chest, because At World's End requires every second to tell its plot, which is fantastic, and is worth the sore bladder. Without being able to reveal much of the plot, let me just tell you that it is very complex---more so than the other two films combined---but it completely worth it if you can follow it. If you expect a simple action blockbuster, wait for the new “Die Hard.” This film is anything but simple, but in the absolute best way possible.

If you've read my reviews of the other two films, you know I've always praised the acting in this series, with the exception of one Kiera Knightley. Well, Ms. Knightley finally steps up to the plate, and does a much better than expected job with her very well written and integral to the plot performance. As usual, Johnny Depp is a barrel of laughs and plays the part of Witty Jack perfectly. Orlando Bloom gives his best performance in the series to date, and Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Barbossa, stealing the show as he did in the first film. When Rush and Depp are on screen together, it's nothing short of Cinema magic. Newcomer to the series Chow Yun-Fat plays Captain Sao-Feng, who is also a joy to watch. It's a great performance and a great addition to the cast. All the returning cast members give everything they've got, and combined with the once again exemplary special effects, draw you into this very believable world of “Pirates.”

Hans Zimmer returns to compose the musical score, and quite possibly tops the other two scores with a sweeping, dynamic, but at the same time soft and emotional, classic Zimmer score. He does some really cool stuff with the music this time, including remixing all the themes with a Chinese feel in the Singapore parts, and doing fun and epic variations on characters themes. There is a new "main theme" for this installment titled "Hoist the Colours" that is a theme for all pirates, and my favorite new theme – one that is still running through my head – is the new love theme for Will and Elizabeth that is both epic, sad, romantic, and fun. I smell an Oscar winning score (though this franchise's music should have won an Oscar years ago.)

My only big complaint with this film is that, while very entertaining and fun, it just doesn't have the same amount of potential replay value as the other two films. I will continue to watch Curse of the Black Pearl probably once a month, and despite my quips with it, Dead Man's Chest a few times a year too. But being mostly plot driven, At World's End will prove to be less re-watchable. That doesn't make the film any less excellent, but with so many twists and turns, watching this over and over would be a bit difficult.

One of my favorite things about the film is, ironically, one of the things that disturbs me: “At World's End” is easily the most violent and dark film, the opening scene depicting mass gallows hangings, including the hanging of a young child. I applaud the film for not backing down from its violent content, not being afraid to show its darkness, but at the same time, I am worried about the amount of young kids that will see this. No one under the age of 9 should see any of these films, and no one under the age of 11 should see this one, and even then parental guidance is suggested. But Disney is heavily marketing this to kids. While waiting for seating to start, I walked to a Waldenbooks and found a display of Child-themed storybooks from the new film that will encourage youngsters to see the movie. They absolutely should not. I, for one, would have had mass amount of nightmares from some images in this film.

So, in the end, “At World's End” provides a pitch-perfect conclusion to the franchise, and I hope they don't make a fourth, as it would spoil the enchanting ending this film offers. Of all the sequels coming out this summer, “At World's End” is the first to hit the ball out of the park, and I hope more sequels could be this good. This film will never top the original Pirates movie for me, but I knew that going in, and enjoyed this one all the same. Go ahead, give Disney your cash; it's worth it. But please, leave the young ones at home.

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