Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Walt Disney Pictures; PG-13)

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film_piratesJack's old friends and older enemies rescue him from his afterlife in Davy Jones' Locker, which is much larger and more surreal than one might think. After one scene in particular, you'll never look at rocks on the beach quite the same way.

 

 

 

Trilogies can be tricky. In the modern era of blockbuster film, sequels are a surefire way to make (more) money, but filmmakers always run the risk of alienating an already-established fan base. The lynchpin is the middle movie: the story must engage and hold an audience's interest, but hold back enough to leave the audience wanting more.

Enter Pirates 2's cliffhanger ending, with our heroes Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), and the recently resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) girding their loins for a trip to save the recently deceased Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). While it didn't have the worst of cliffhanger endings (ahem, The Matrix:keira1 Reloaded), you could argue that Dead Man's Chest was basically a two-and-a-half-hour trailer for the final installment in the trilogy. Now we get to see if the wait pays off.

At World's End opens in Singapore, where we meet the major new character of the film, Sao Feng, played by a fake-scarred and appropriately dirty Chow Yun-Fat. Predictably (for a movie about pirates, at least), the characters we know and love try to pull a fast one on the character we've just met. The result is the kind of over-the-top, swashbuckling action sequence for which the series has become known; so far, so good.

Eventually, Jack's old friends and older enemies rescue him from his afterlife in Davy Jones' Locker, which is much larger and more surreal than one might think. After one scene in particular, you'll never look at rocks on the beach quite the same way. After Jack's rescue, the movie really hits its stride. While you don't consciously miss Depp's presence in the opening scenes, once he's back in the action you remember how much fun he is to watch.

As the movie progresses, we follow Turner, Swann, and Sparrow from exotic locale to exotic locale, all the while wondering when one likable character will betray another. Of course, part of the movie's charm is that the heroes don't always behave honorably; we like to see the good guys getting their hands dirty.

The third installment of the Pirates franchise reuses a number of characters from the previous two movies. Davy Jones (a slightly underused Bill Nighy) and his crewman/prisoner "Bootstrap Bill" Turner (Stellan Skarsgard), who also happens to be Will's dad, show up again, as well as captain-turned-dirty guy-turned-admiral James Norrington (Jack Davenport) and the manipulative chairman of the East India Trading Company, Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), all of whom make trouble for the pirate protagonists. Unfortunately, with so many characters on screen and so many storylines to follow, the one large drawback to the movie is the potential for confusion. Add the nigh-impenetrable accents of some of the characters, not to mention the requirement of having viewed the original movie and its sequel, and watch as audience members stare blankly at the screen.

Still, in the end, all the bad guys get theirs, right? All the loose ends from the second movie get wrapped up neatly, right? It's a happy ending worthy of the Disney name, right? Well...pretty much. There is one nasty little twist that keeps the movie from quite ending on an up note. Pay attention and you'll probably see it coming. But for fans of the franchise, old and new, At World's End is a fitting finale that will leave you aarrrrring for more and bellowing out "Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me!" | Jared Vandergriff

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