For people that loved the first two films or enjoy their plotting meaty and full of twists, your summer movie has arrived.
When last we left our heroes, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) appeared in the home of the bog witch Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) to lead the former crew of the Black Pearl to bring Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) back from the locker of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). With Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) seeking redemption, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) trying to free his father ‘Bootstrap’ Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), and Jack Sparrow himself trying to preserve his own existence at all costs, loyalties change quickly as fresh opportunities present themselves. In the meantime, Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) and his commander Norrington (Jack Davenport) are quickly pressing their advantage to impose the will of the East Indian Trading Company upon all the oceans of the world.
At the end of the second film in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, there is a scene near the end where Norrington, Sparrow, and Turner are all fighting amongst themselves over the “dead man’s chest.”Throughout the scene, each pitches their reasons why two should gang up against one as the key to the chest is up for grabs. In the third film, that to-each-their-own attitude creates layers of allegiances, each contingent upon who is winning at the time. Each betrayal and backstabbing is as entertaining as the next, taking what would be a simple, straight-forward plot and turning it on its side. The real question throughout the film is, is there a way for everyone to get what they want or have coming to them, or will someone sacrifice their own goals for those of another?
Even with the layers of allegiances, the cast is dead-on for the entire production. Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth not only comes into her own but becomes almost unbelievably scary in her own right. Orlando Bloom finally gets the chance in this outing to look less like the love-sick puppy and more like a man taking charge of his destiny, especially in a scene shining on Davy Jones (right to his tentacled face) that would make even the most empowered man think twice. Depp, by way of comparison, takes Sparrow down a notch to let the other players shine and instead resorts to stealing scenes only from himself (you’ll have to see that to fully appreciate it). Every character gets their moment, from Norrington to Beckett to Jones to Dalma, and even the two watchmen from the original film poke their head’s in for an appearance.
With the right story, the right plot, and all the players on their game, all that’s left is the spectacle itself. If it wasn’t enough for all these other elements to come together, the computer-generated imagery mixed with live and location footage creates a seamless adventure to the ends of the earth and beyond. Storm-ridden seas, frozen passages, armadas of warships filling the horizon, and even more nautical legend superstitiously injected into the mix makes for a thrilling conclusion to the trilogy but doesn’t close the door on further adventures set in the same world. Stay after the credits to be rewarded for your wait, but even with the film clocking in at just under three hours, too much still doesn’t seem like enough.
(a four skull recommendation out of four)