Review: 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End'

Bottom Line: Avast -- as in a vast improvement over the soggy previous installment.

For what it's worth, the trilogy-capping "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," represents a considerable step up from the soulless "Dead Man's Chest."

Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow's in fine flighty form and the enterprise as a whole has reconnected with some of that fun stuff that made it such a pleasant excursion when it first set sail back in 2003.

Of course, even if that wasn't the case, those legions of "Pirates" fans wouldn't really care, having previously ignored critics' warnings to the tune of $423 million in North America alone.

So they'll likely overlook the fact that it still takes an awfully long time (two hours and 47 minutes) getting to where it needs to go and you could make yourself seasick trying to untangle all those confusing plot lines (at least 15, according to our count).

In other words, "At World's End," which hits in this end of the world Thursday night, shouldn't have any problems beating its previous openings, though that expansive running time could take a nip out of its record-breaking potential.

Cutting to the chase, "World's End" finds Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, who only made a brief appearance at the end of "Dead Man's Chest") setting sail on a quest to gather together the Nine Lords of the Brethren Court in a bid to defeat the pirate-hating Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and Admiral Norrington (Jack Davenport).

The only problem is, one of those Lords, Jack Sparrow, is still trapped in Davy Jones' Locker, and, in order to get to him, Turner, Swann and company must first make a stop in Singapore to secure a ship and some handy maps from formidable Chinese pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat).

And with everybody having their own personal agendas, the voyage turns into one big crazy game of Who Do You Trust?

It all feels more than a tad overstuffed, as if director Gore Verbinski, along with writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, shared with "Spider-Man" franchise director Sam Raimi the need to cram everything in here, in the event that this would be his last time calling the shots whether or not the movies would continue.

But while it still lacks the giddy zip of "Curse of the Black Pearl," the new edition delivers its share of entertaining sequences, especially wherever Depp is concerned.

His otherworldly confinement in Davy Jones Locker gives way to absurdist flights of fancy that suggest a meeting of the minds of Chuck Jones, Tim Burton and Salvador Dali, and bring something novel to the "Pirates" table.

More than ever, Depp masterfully keeps the enterprise afloat, even when the sheer weight of all those other characters threatens to throw it off-course.

In addition to the above-mentioned, the extensive passenger list also includes Bill Nighy as the heavily tentacled Davy Jones, Stellan Skarsgard as Turner's imprisoned dad Bootstrap Bill, Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma, the gypsy queen who turns out to be a true force of nature, and, most notably, Keith Richards in a brief but memorable turn as crusty Keeper of the Code and Sparrow's mentor, Captain Teague.

Production values are typically shipshape, with production designer Rick Heinrichs and visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Charles Gibson again delivering on those trademark gargantuan set pieces, while composer Hans Zimmer manages to add some fresh flourishes to the familiar "Pirates" mix.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END
Buena Vista
A Walt Disney Pictures presentation in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Credits:
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writers: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Based on characters created by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Executive producers: Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Bruce Hendricks, Eric McLeod
Director of photography: Dariusz Wolski
Production designer: Rick Heinrichs
Music: Hans Zimmer
Costume designer: Penny Rose
Editors: Craig Wood, Stephen Rivkin
Visual effects supervisors: John Knoll, Charles Gibson
Cast:
Jack Sparrow: Johnny Depp
Will Turner: Orlando Bloom
Elizabeth Swann: Keira Knightley
Captain Barbossa, Bootstrap Bill: Stellan Skarsgard
Davy Jones: Bill Nighy
Captain Sao Feng: Chow Yun-Fat
Commodore James Norrington: Jack Davenport
Governor Weatherby Swann: Jonathan Pryce
Tia Dalma: Naomie Harris
Lord Cutler Beckett: Tom Hollander
Captain Teague: Keith Richards
Running time -- 167 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

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