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Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End (2007): ***½

Directed by Gore Verbinski

I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was a lot of fun; even at its almost-three-hour length it never bored me. I had a great time while I was watching it, and I left feeling satisfied. There ya go!

I thought that this was much better than Dead Man's Chest for one reason. At World's End has some similar things going on it in it: the main characters are split up early in the film and spend much of the rest of it wheeling, dealing, betraying, and acting generally pirate-like in order to get what they want. The problem I had with Dead Man's Chest was that the direction of the movie seemed really muddled and fluid; I could never tell what the movie was building towards. It seemed like every 20 minutes or so there was a new plot that the movie was about. At World's End has as much wheeling, dealing, and betraying as (if not more than) Dead Man's Chest, but the movie works much better because the whole time it seems to be building relentlessly in a definite direction. All of the characters' actions are drawing them headlong towards the same destination, and in the end the movie arrives there, all the elements introduced in Dead Man's Chest and At World's End come head-to-head and there's a huge, dramatic, spectacular climax that is not just the climax of At World's End, but of the entire trilogy itself. I thought it was great.

There were a couple of twists that were too-heavily foreshadowed, and therefore I saw them coming (including the fate of one of the main characters), but those moments were done well enough that I enjoyed them anyway. And there were still little moments here and there that surprised and delighted me. Most of all, though, I think I was impressed by the sheer audacity and scope of the movie. At one point Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow is in a swordfight with a man who has a squid for a face. They're fighting over a box that has a beating heart in it. They're fighting while standing on the yardarm of a ship, a ship that is swirling around an enormous maelstrom in a hurricane that was created by an angry god. The ship is swirling around in the maelstrom while another ship is also swirling around the same maelstrom, and they're shooting cannonballs at each other. And also people from both ships are swinging across the gaping maw of the maelstrom to land on the opposing ship. That, ladies and gentlemen, is balls-to-the-wall filmmaking. And bless Verbinski for (A) having the stones to put it all out there and (B) having the talent to actually make it enjoyable to watch. At World's End is spectacle at its best.

My only complaints are that sometimes the movies strays too far into the cutesy. I can see that they wanted to lighten up some of it because they were afraid it would be too dreary of a film otherwise, but some of their attempts came off a little jokey and kind of undercut what was going on. They should have stuck to their guns a little bit more. But really, these moments are few and far between. Basically I could have done with less undead monkey.

One thing I find fascinating about the Pirates trilogy is how each subsequent movie moves further and further into the realm of fantasy. Curse of the Black Pearl is easily the most "realistic." What I mean by "realistic" is that even though it didn't actually happen, the supernatural elements are done in such a way that only a couple of dozen people are ever privy to them, and one could assume that they could all keep it secret. It is possible to suspend your knowledge of history enough to think, "Y'know, this might have happened and nobody talked about it, it just didn't get written down anywhere, so that's why we don't know about it. It could have happened in the real world."

But by the end of At World's End we have massive armadas facing off against each other with supernatural creatures interacting openly with hundreds of people, giant cephalopod corpses washing up on beaches, governers getting assassinated, and all sorts of manner of things that we can look in the history books of the Caribbean and say, "Now, I know that this stuff never happened! There's no way this could have happened in the real world!"

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