Filmed back-to-back, The second and third installments in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise were meant to elaborate on the untold events of The Curse of the Black Pearl as well as bring an end to the Will/Elizabeth story arc. The shoddy attempt of Dead Man’s Chest did not bode well for its partner, but the feeling of conclusion and the inclusion of the most broad and epic action sequences of the franchise led to a somewhat satisfying though moderately depressing end of a very rocky trilogy.
Continuing immediately from Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End finds Will, Elizabeth and the newly resurrected Captain Barbossa in search of Jack Sparrow in Davy Jones’ Locker. Barbossa plans to lift a spell brought on by the pirates lords of the past but he can only do so with Jack on the other side of reality. Meanwhile, the East India Trading Company is going forward full force with their global take-over plan with the help of Davy Jones.
In my review of Dead Man’s Chest I may have conveyed the impression that I disliked this film as much as that one. Part of this was due to my frustration with Dead Man’s Chest and part of it was from my vague memory, not having seen At World’s End in years. I have to say though that this film is a vast improvement on the previous in both story and entertainment. There is a lot less padding here although it does exist. Unfortunately most of that padding is done through Jack who spends a lot of this movie more as a side character than anything. On the other hand, I do appreciate that they bottled their procrastination in one character’s story rather than everyone’s so it doesn’t feel as much in the way as it did before.
The film suffers from the same dull humor that bogged down the last, but has enough original humor that works to feel a lot more like the original film rather than just referencing it directly. Davy Jones and his past is explored in greater detail and his story is easily the second greatest appeal of the movie (I’ll address the greatest momentarily). Will and Elizabeth’s story is brought to a fitting end that ties all the stories together well but ends up being uncharacteristically bitter-sweet. It’s a pretty dark shift to end their story and while it’s one I ultimately approve of, I can completely understand why one might not be so inclined to approve.
To date, At World’s End is the single most expensive film of all time and every penny of it appears on screen. The last half hour of the film is one of the most elaborate action sequences since The Return of the King. It’s the most engaging sequence of the trilogy and manages to balance action, adventure, thrills, suspense, emotion, drama and comedy relatively well. There are a couple moments here and there that feel a little forced but the lead-up to the conclusion is one of the best payoffs I’ve seen from a franchise.
At World’s End, while not nearly soaring to the heights of The Curse of the Black Pearl when concerning the screenplay, exceeds both its predecessors and most other films in general in entertainment. It’s not the most satisfying conclusion we could have received but that is only really because of how screwed up the franchise got with Dead Man’s Chest.