I don’t have too much to say about Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. It should have been called “At Ordeal’s End.” I was sorely disappointed by POTC II, and III is cut from the exact same cloth, since it was made at the same time. A glance at the stillstells the tale: every one is crammed, packed and ugly, just like the movie.
I’m going to talk about the movie a bit and I’m going to discuss the ending in depth, so PLEASE, only click on more if you are fully prepared for SPOLIERS.
I MEAN IT… S P O I L E R S
Making any sense whatsoever of POTC III’s plot is impossible, literally, since much of the complex story seems to have been left on the cutting room floor. Everyone is out for themselves, but whenever anyone does anything shitty to someone else they immediately set off to rescue whoever they just betrayed. The only person who doesn’t is the prissy English guy, Lord Beckett, who’s just a shit. So you have Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly), Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), and Norrington (Jack Davenport)…all running around doing things to each other. Chow Yun Fat shows up as a Chinese pirate lord, basically to play Jabba the Hut as Leia Swann and Lando Barbossa go to plead to save Capt. Jack Solo’s life as they promise to rendezvous with Will Skywalker. )
I have a suspicion that director Gore Verbinski will not make another movie for a long time, if only to sace what’s left of his sanity. The movie’s special effects are numerous and occasionally impressive — they are also oppressive. A CGI effect in almost every shot means that Verbinski, who is no action director, is forced to plop down the camera and shoot whatever is in front of it in medium focus for hours at a time. The result is static, noisy and numbingly confusing.
The original PIRATES worked because it had a strong script by the much admired duo of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio , and a fresh, charismatic cast, led by Johnny Depp’s brilliantly eccentric interpretation. (Although it should be noted that the energy in WORLD’S END whenever Barbossa is on screen shows that he was sorely missed in DEAD MAN’S CHEST.) Bloom and Knightly are stiff actors (although a better director could probably have coaxed better performances out of them) but who cares — they look at awesome! (The one genuinely tragic moment of WORLD’S END is when a chillblain appears on Bloom’s cheek during an Arctic moment.)
Saddled with the task of making two huge CGI spectacles back to back, Verbinski’s main effect seems to be relief that it’s over — in every interview for the film he mentions how much he wants to take some time off. The size of the project may just have got away from him.
The problem is also that Rossio, Elliott and Verbinski also attempted a very, very complex script with story arcs for over half a dozen characters, and tried to create a mythology almost wholesale. It’s this busyness that makes the film so endless and unintelligible…but it needn’t have been so, perhaps. Especially when you realize that the ending of the film wasn’t even put in.
Now we begin the spoilers. After 2 1/2 hours of endless, monotonous action, there’s a big sea battle, and Will is stabbed in the heart. We’ve learned along the way that Davy Jones was in love with Dalma, who’s actually Calypso, but she betrayed him and he forgot to ferry souls to the underworld, and so he was cursed to look like a dying squid for all eternity as the captain of the Flying Dutchman. WHEW. Back in the battle, one of the other characters (it was only 3 days ago and already I can’t remember who) acts quickly to cut out Will’s heart, so effectively he replaces Davy Jones as captain of the Dutchman, meaning he’s undead and can only touch land once every ten years. Oh no! What about Elizabeth, who he married in a shipboard ceremony moments before?
The penultimate scene of the film shows Will and Elizabeth after a whirlwind day in which they got to know each other much better. And then Will sails off for ten long years. After some nonsense with Jack that sets up a Pirates IV if anyone wants to make it, we sit through the credits for the extra scene…and see a title “Ten Years Later…” as Elizabeth, shows up on shore with a cute son, as the sky flashes green and Will returns for his once every 10 years booty call.
Walking out of the theater, me and my gal pals were saddened by this ending. I mean, I liked the fact that they had gone with an ambiguous and mixed ending, a daring move for a Hollywood blockbuster. Will and Elizabeth were true loves, but only got to spend a few days together for all eternity? More troublingly, Elizabeth gives up being Pirate King (remember how she was seeking in adventure in the first movie?) to become a lonely single mom who only gets laid once every decade? That was no reward for a Disney Princess!
But…that wasn’t the ending. You see, the actual ending wasn’t even in the movie according to Rossio and Elliott. In a summary I found at Millarworld, they explain what happened: Calypso’s curse was broken and Will was sailing home to spend the rest of his days with Elizabeth and his son! IT WAS A HAPPY ENDING!
Alot of the confusion here stems from the fact that two scenes that would have explained the curse being broken where dropped from the film much to Ted and Terry’s surprise which basically screwed up the ending. But over the last couple days they have been telling us how they wrote it and they wanted it convyed to us even though that didn’t happen.
Here are some of the quotes you can find many more but these confirm the curse was broken with the final green flash and what the breaking of said curse entailed.
Rossio: Given the lost information, my prior post doesn’t apply. You might be able to derive that the curse could be broken from the information in the film, but it would be indeed difficult.
and Elliot: That green flash was what Terry was referring to when he said it was possible, but very difficult, to figure out from the movie that the curse was broken.
In those two quotes they did confirm that the curse was broken with the final green flash at the end of the credits scene.
And in this post is sorta entailed what the breaking of the curse entailed:
Rossio: I don’t know that I would say, “forbidden.” There might be some story to be told where Elizabeth manages to make a trip to the land of the dead, with the help of someone, etc., etc., to find Will, etc.
But the basic requirement is that Will agrees captain the Flying Dutchmen (in return for what the film reveals) and that he can step on land but once every ten years, and that at any time, if he finds a love that is true (this is part of the original Flying Dutchman opera by the way) then his attachment to the ship is broken.
Basically what all that said is that due to the fact that certain scenes were cut it is hard to tell BUT STILL POSSIBLE to discern from info given in the movie that the curse was broken. And that the signal that was given to us that said curse was broken was that final GREEN FLASH and that William is now detached from the Dutchman and can live a normal life with his family. He can stay with them as long as he likes and no longer has to to the job that was requried of the Captain of the Dutchman.
From this you can see how rushed and desperate the filmmakers were — they had to leave the culmination of the story on the cutting room floor.
To be honest, in the coming years I’ll enjoy watching all three pirate movies on DVD. They are extremely pretty, and the pirates look good and even the last two movies have about 10 minutes each of entertainment. But the sad thing is that they have the ingredients of being actual good movies, buried deep inside.
The really horrible thing is that about half the people who see WORLD’S END seem to think it’s great! Really! They think the action is great and they can follow the story and everything. Oh really?
For the first time I am really beginning to understand how different the Video Game Generation is from the “We played with Lincoln Logs and we LOVED it!” Generation. The VGG simply has no ability to judge the difference between excitement and catharsis. To them it’s all stimulation…there’s no expectation of a payoff, other than an ever escalating series of explosions. (Oddly, PIRATES 3 has hardly any action payoffs. A giant woman just stands there tied up with ropes — no rampage! A whirlpool just stops! A huge naval battle involves one or two ships.)
Now, I still believe that at their core, even the VGG has some vestigial ability to perceive somewhere, deep inside that “This is not my beautiful house!” I think the laser beam of dramatic catharsis can still pierce their veil.
In my PIRATE II review I mentioned Stephen Chow’s KUNG FU HUSTLE as an example of a fully satisfying action fantasy film that worked on every level. By chance, I viewed Chow’s SHAOLIN SOCCER a week before seeing PIRATES III. Once again, there’s a reason why Chow is one of the most popular movie stars in the world — SHAOLIN SOCCER takes the oldest story on earth — a gang of misfits getting together to fight a superior foe in a sporting event — and makes irresistible, with flaming eyes, satisfying resolutions and story arcs for all the characters.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S ENDS hasn’t really satisfied anyone, and the box office records in the world aren’t going to heal the emptiness within. I hold out no great hope of the mass of audiences recognizing that emptiness, but everyone needs a dream.