2-Disc Limited Edition
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 169 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
Release Date: December 4, 2007
Review Date: November 26, 2007
At one point during a momentous encounter with Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in Gore Verbinksi’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, a character turns quizzically to his mate and asks, “Do you think he has a plan or does he just make this stuff up as he goes along?” It’s meant to be funny, but there’s more than a grain of truth in that utterance. The script for this final film in the trilogy often seems thrown together willy-nilly and with considerable meandering for jokes, nonsense, or protracted set pieces or battle scenes. Even though I had seen both previous films in the series, I had a very difficult time getting back into the swing of the action for this last installment. Once in, things did begin to come together (it also helped that I went back and rewatched the first hour of the film), and the movie did offer some rousing adventure and some adroit humor. But even with an extended cast of characters each with his own agenda, it’s far too long at 169 minutes and could have used some scrupulous and judicious cutting to clarify the story and play up the film’s strengths.
And the film’s main strength is the aforementioned Mr. Depp. His Captain Jack Sparrow is a tremendous creation, and he’s just as much fun in this third installment as he has been in the previous two. Selfish, conceited, always scheming, and completely oblivious to chivalry and decorum, he’s a true original whose every screen moment is anticipated and once around, totally enjoyable. But he doesn’t enter this film until more than half an hour into the running time. He’s been sent to Davy Jones’ Locker, an appetizing potential replacement for the current Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) who longs to be reunited with his love, the goddess Calypso (Naomie Harris). But in order to do that, he must find a replacement, and Sparrow seems just right for the job.
On the other hand, Jack’s pirate cronies need him for another purpose. The East India Trading Company has been wildly successful in its attempts to get pirates under control, and the surviving buccaneers are eager to convene a pirate conference with the nine great pirate captains in order the band together to fight their scourge. Sparrow being one of the nine, however, necessitates a rescue for Sparrow from Davy Jones’ Locker, and to do that, they must sail to the end of the world. The route to that remote and deadly place can only be gotten from Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) in Singapore which constitutes the first of the many adventures our heroes undertake during this very lengthy movie.
The plotting by screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio is dense and often confusing, and because each character has his own reasons for banding together in this grand scheme, it almost takes a scorecard to keep them all straight. Suffice to say that all of the regulars are back for this installment: the on-and-off lovers Will and Elizabeth (Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley), the evil Cutler Beckett of the East India Company (Tom Hollander), once dead-now alive Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who has a funny running rivalry with Sparrow for command of the Black Pearl, Pintel (Lee Arenberg) and Ragetti (Mackenzie Crook) as the Laurel and Hardy duo of the pirates, and, in lesser roles this time, the fathers of Will and Elizabeth (Stellan Skarsgard, Jonathan Pryce).
The film is a massive undertaking for director Gore Verbinski who has seen each of the three films in the series grow in size and length. More daunting is that the final two films were mostly filmed back-to-back, unthinkable that so much work on such a massive scale had to be done in such a short amount of time to fit film release schedules. Still, there are plenty of moments to savor: Depp’s hilarious introduction on the Black Pearl ordering around multiple versions of himself, the thrilling trips to the end of the world and back again, and especially the climactic battle during a maelstrom which is a masterful union of live action, stunt work, and CGI.
But the meandering, inflated script is the film’s true weakness. There is so much plot to ascertain and file away for later reference that one begins wearying of it by the two hour mark (especially knowing there is still almost 40 more minutes to go). The film gets by on the charming performances of its star cast and the undoubted desire to see a conclusion to a journey that’s been years in the making. But one leaves the film feeling unsatisfied. Even with the lengthy running time of this third segment, there is still much left unsaid.
The film’s 2.35:1 Panavision theatrical aspect ratio is presented here in anamorphic video. The transfer is sharp (especially in close-ups and medium shots) and often dimensional, among the best standard definition can offer. However, skin tones veer toward the brown end of the scale, and because the film is so dark, there are only a few scenes of brightness. Blacks can be deep, and the Davy Jones’ Locker sequence features whites that are close to blooming. I noted only minor edge enhancement in a few scenes. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is everything a modern action-adventure movie soundtrack should be: active, fully realized, and with superb spread in all channels. The LFE channel is house-shaking in its impact, and the Hans Zimmer music score is on constant audio display in the fronts and rears throughout the movie.
All of the featurettes on this two-disc set are presented in anamorphic video.
Disc one presents 5½ minutes of bloopers which are more amusing than these on-set screw-ups normally are possibly because there are errors with prop manipulation in addition to the using blowing of lines.
Trailers on the first disc include Underdog, The Game Plan, 101 Dalmatians, High School Musical 2, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is not included but can be found on many Buena Vista releases over the past few months.
The second disc carries the majority of the special features. It begins with a 4½ minute paean to musician Keith Richard (who plays Captain Teague in the movie and who was the inspiration for Depp’s original interpretation of Jack Sparrow). Entitled “Keith and the Captain,” it doesn’t show the rocker in the best light with an inability to put words together for the interview and a few shots of him blowing lines during filming.
“Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom” is one of the two best featurettes in the set. It’s 19½ minutes giving a behind-the-scenes look at the superhuman effort it took to film this most massive of set pieces.
“The Tale of Many Jacks” is a puff piece showing how the sequence was filmed with lots of Johnny Depps in the same shot. This 4¾-minute piece should have been a great deal more informative since the sequence itself is one of the early highlights in the picture.
The disc offers two deleted scenes with Gore Verbinski commentary which can be turned on or off. Both scenes are fun to watch but were wisely excised from the already lengthy picture. Their combined running time, however, is only 2½ minutes.
“The World of Chow Yun-Fat” is another puff piece on the legendary Chinese actor who has some impressive early scenes in the film. His interview is subtitled though other actors who worked with him speak in English. It runs 4 minutes.
“The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer” is a 10½-minute interview with the Oscar-winning composer on his sometimes hectic work schedule for this movie. There’s a special moment when director Gore Verbinski picks up a guitar and strums some notes which are worked into the score of the film.
“Masters of Design: Creating the Pirates’ World” is a collection of five featurettes that concentrate on five different aspects of making the movie: Jim Byrkit discusses the construction of the infamous circular map (6 minutes), Crash McCreary describes how he created the barnacle-encrusted death crew for Davy Jones (5¼ minutes), Rick Heinrichs shows his drawings for the studio-created Singapore set (5 minutes), Penny Rose talks about Keith Richards’ intricate costume (3½ minutes), and Chris Peck shows the immense amount of effort that went into the creation of the pirate code book used in one major scene in the film (5 minutes).
“Hoist the Colours” shows the inspiration for the pirate song that runs several times in the film. This runs 4½ minutes.
“Inside the Brethren Court” is my other favorite feature on disc two, a fascinating summary of the mythology surrounding the nine pirates (plus Elizabeth) who make up the Brethren Court of master pirates. The viewer chooses each pirate‘s piece of eight to get a 1 to 2-minute discussion of the pirate‘s life and domain.
Not listed on the box art is an inside folder not only giving the contents of each of the discs and a list of the film’s chapter divisions, but also a page of questions and answers that viewers may find helpful once they’ve watched the movie. Warning: the questions and answers do contain spoilers about the film’s surprises which will be ruined if you read these before watching the film.
Despite its shortcomings as a cohesive and coherent film, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a film most fans of the series will want to see. That it may leave them somewhat dissatisfied with its conclusions is likely, but as a set-up for perhaps even another sequel somewhere down the road, it’s certainly a possibility.