Friday, June 01, 2007

Pirates 3: The Grog's Gone Muddy, Lads

No home internet connection for nigh three weeks has turned me as crabby as a chain-smoker being denied cigarettes on an airport layover, so this clandestine post comes from my fine place of employment between routine tasks. Just don't tell my boss...

'Twixt relentless bouts of schlepping boxes, commuting between work and two residences, and cleaning various species of insect from the dark corners of my new pad, I squeezed in a visit to the local cinema for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. And the wind appears to have forsaken the franchise's sails.

If you're a fan of the first two Pirates movies (and I am), no amount of kvetching is gonna dissuade you from seeing this final installment, but be forewarned not to spend full-price (if anything) on a ticket. From this cramped perspective, it's a pretty epic disappointment.

Depp's Captain Jack still charms at spots, kernels of promising ambition bob up amidst the chaos, and the damn thing looks as good as the first two Pirates pictures. But at 2 hours and 45 minutes, At World's End squanders its bladder-testingly long running time on action scenes and forced comedy bits that wear out their welcome. Instead of resolving the fates of many of the characters introduced in the second film, it discards or outright forgets their story threads (even more than the second film, it feels like it's missing large pieces). Like every mainstream American film of the last twenty-five years, At World's End has no clue what to do with a charismatic Asian actor (the mighty Chow-Yun Fat is utterly wasted here). And the breezy fun of the first Pirates opus has been decimated by the crushing punch of Trying Too Damned Hard.

The first appearance of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow tellingly captures Pirates 3's aesthetic. Trapped in dimensional limbo, Jack commandeers a marooned ship with multiple copies of himself forming the crew. It's the most literal answer the filmmakers could offer to complaints about Depp's lack of screen time in the second Pirates picture, but it still fails to satisfy. It also illustrates one of the principal problems with this third installment: it's alternately too damn much, and not nearly enough.

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