After a long day on the road yesterday I went to see POTC:At Worlds End last night. I’d deliberately avoided reviews of it having found the second one better than most people had made out. In retrospect this may not have been the wisest decision because with all honesty I cannot remember a film that I have been so disappointed with.
Let me just get the inevitable part of this review out of the way – Pirates 3 wasn’t just bad, it was bloody awful…
Its first (and biggest) failure is that despite its reputed $250 Million budget, the accountants have apparently forgotten to pay for any writers. The beauty of most summer movies is that they can usually be summed up in a single sentence – supernatural pirates seek to recover their souls, man seeks to save fiance by finding the key to Davey Jones locker – sure there are sub plots aplenty but at the heart of it both films possess a wonderful simplicity. Now try it for this – pirates seek to end the reign of the East India Trading Company? Only that doesn’t cover half of the major characters motives and completely ignores Davey Jones. The film defies simple explanation meaning that it is difficult to know what we should be focusing on.
Pacing and performances. The pacing is awful. Again, the joy of the first two is that they have a wonderful sense of pace – you never get the chance to get bored because the plot is always moving forward, the stakes are always being raised. Here instead we have a series of set pieces strung together with some of the worst plot exposition ever – can you honestly say that any of the speeches are as memorable of any of those in the first two? Which brings us onto the performances. Depp now seems bored, hardly surprising when there isn’t any juicy dialogue for him to get his teeth around. When you’re forced to resort to comedy swinging for a character that should be chewing the scenery with wonderful off hand comments then you should sit back and look at what made him so good in the first two films. The others are better served (although still under-used in an attempt to give even the most minor character his alloted time on screen) but seem to have been taken away from the strengths. I’m really sorry Keira Knightley, but you cannot rouse the troops – you do have a gift for light comedy but the writers seem to have forgotten about this.
And lastly, the look. The first two were wonderfully inventive and colourful, this time its a grey brown mess produced by a batch of super-computers at ILM. Yes, the effects are faultless – but they are also so lacking in imagination that there isn’t the sense of awe from last time, it feels as if they ran out of time for all of the number crunching and had to resort to second best. No other time is this more noticeable than in the finale. Two mighty fleets line up against each other but instead of seeing a fleet battle we instead get two ships against each other whilst the others look on (these are pirates, not ninjas…). Admittedly the latter would have been difficult because ILM ignored their own cardinal rule – the silhouette should tell you everything (as an example of what I mean watch the pod race from SW:Episode I – each of the participants can be identified by their outline shape) – because they seem to have just hit the copy/array button.
The disappointment is that there were flashes of brilliance but these were never capitalised on meaning a series that should have gone out on a high instead fell at the last hurdle, a real disappointment.