Pirate series runs aground 

'Bug' gets under your skin.

THEY'RE BACK: But a little overboard.
  • THEY'RE BACK: But a little overboard.

Everybody, it seems, wants to make a film trilogy these days. There’s an obvious problem with the three-parters, however: Once you’ve spent three films cooking up second-act stuff — sidelong glances, shifting allegiances, character arcs that stop mid-swing — it’s almost impossible to wrap it all up in a neat bow by the time the credits roll on the third movie. Not only that, but by the time people have sat through six or seven hours of film and waited often years between installments, a simple resolution isn’t good enough by the time they buy a ticket for number three. They want the Big Payoff.

For a lesson on how a trilogy can work, look to the “Lord of the Rings” or the original Star Wars movies. For a look at how an otherwise perfectly good series can be shipwrecked by an overly ambitious third film, a ticket to “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is required. While “World’s End” isn’t exactly a bad movie, it is the worst installment in the “Pirates” trilogy, and is several rungs below the high bar set by the original. Full of pirate politics, incomprehensible blabbering about the supernatural, and allegiances that shift as often as the sands of the Sahara, “World’s End” is one of those films that will have you squinting at your watch in the dark before it’s even half over.

Back for the third round is the old gang: Orlando Bloom as the dashing Will Turner, Keira Knightley as damsel-in-perpetual-distress Elizabeth Swann, Geoffrey Rush as the dastardly Captain Barbossa, and the crew of swabs and scallywags we’ve grown to love from the first two films. With Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) having been eaten by the Kraken at the end of the last film, our heroes set out to do the impossible: journey to the underworld and get him back. After some derring-do in Singapore, they manage to do just that. Once Jack is back, however, he’s soon up to his old trickster ways, selling out his once-friends — or would that be them selling him out? After awhile, I just stopped keeping track. Whatever the case, with the armada of the East India Co. — led by the unstoppable flying Dutchman and tentacled beasty Davy Jones — bearing down on them, our heroes have only one chance: Convene a meeting of the nine pirate lords and convince them to band together to fight their common foe.

As I said, “At World’s End” isn’t exactly a bad film. There are a number of thrilling fight scenes, some genuinely dazzling sea battles, and some truly lovely performances (Geoffrey Rush stands out, as always, as does a turn by Rolling Stone Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow’s father and the keeper of pirate law). That said, the only way to judge a part of a trilogy is in relation to the whole: How well does it stand alone? How well does it support the other parts? How successful is it in resolving the Big Questions of the trilogy? Sadly, the answer to all those questions when it comes to “World’s End” is: Not very well. This is a film with just too much going on, as if the screenwriters decided that the thing to do was to pack every idea they ever had about the series into a five-pound bag. Instead of the sharp, interesting adventure that we got in “Curse of the Black Pearl,” we wind up with a lumpy, misshapen thing so lopsided that it manages to subtract from the rest of the series.



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