Come one, come all! I am about to defend a film that, universally, NOBODY likes! Not only do I like this film, but it is also coincidentally my favorite movie. Ever. Like, this is the feature that I would take with me on that desert island. Forever. And ever. So, without further ado:
Pirates of the Caribbean….3. At World’s End.
I can hear you assembling your pitchforks and torches as I type this, but let me explain, and I might just convince you that this movie could actually be worthy of the title, “Favorite Movie.”
Now, when you think of a great film, what comes to mind? Something that makes you happy to watch? Does that mean a comedy? Not always. Is it something that makes you think? Something with a statement or a moral? Simply a fun ride? Something that tugs at the heart strings? Or is it a movie that seems as if it was made only for you? Something that appeals to your every whim, every like, and every expectation? Something that when you sit in a room with 200 strangers watching it, you feel like you alone have entered body and soul into that two-dimensional world for two hours?
That’s the magic of cinema. It’s all so subjective, that it is very easy to get lost in a film you personally find entertains you the most. For most people, these favorites are limited to what everyone has historically found worthy of that “best film” title— The Godfather, Singin’ in the Rain, The Artist. Which, don’t get me wrong, these films are on my top ten list as well. I am a scholar of the film industry and don’t wish to peg myself as someone who doesn’t appreciate truly good cinema, but rare is it that a personal favorite film is a summer blockbuster.
A summer blockbuster film in a series.
A summer blockbuster film in a series about a Disney ride.
A summer blockbuster film in a series about a Disney ride about pirates.
…A summer blockbuster film in a series about a Disney ride about pirates in which the film in question is argued as being the weakest of the series.
Pirates of the Caribbean; At World’s End, which I shall henceforth refer to as POTC 3, appeals to me so much because it truly has everything in it. The film was released in 2007, and followed the release of POTC 2, Dead Man’s Chest, which is commonly hailed as the “Two Towers” of the original Pirate Trilogy as it served only as the creamy center between the first and third films. POTC 3 cost over $300 million dollars to make, and when adjusted for inflation, it is the most expensive movie EVER made. Worldwide, it did well, almost passing the $1 billion mark. However, that makes it (as of August 2014) #23 on the highest grossing films worldwide list, and a staggering #40 on the highest grossing films in the U.S. Yikes! That’s only significant because POTC 2 did so incredibly well. Even though it has been surpassed by films like Avatar and Titanic (because damn James Cameron rereleased the stupid thing, cheater!!) and The Hunger Games, POTC 2 was at one point the highest grossing film of all time.
Why was this? Because everyone loved the first film, and word got out about the intended series. Literally, there is nobody who did not like SOMETHING from the first movie! It was the first film to be based off an original theme park attraction, which was a completely new and fresh concept. It was historical, it was full of action, it had replicated scenes from the ride that everyone knew and loved, and it was a good story that was well made by a powerful group of writers, producers, musicians, directors, costumers, cinematographers, and, of course, actors. It made Jack Sparrow a household name, and young kids wonder why he wasn’t appearing in their history books. The confusion on why Jack Sparrow wasn’t in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disney Parks prompted Imagineers to do something unheard of— changing Walt’s original design! Now, the film and the ride it was based off of are constantly being renovated to keep up to date with the stories as they progress!
Now, some of the audience dropped off from POTC 2 to 3 because of the added complexities that came along with the new storyline of the series’s new villain, Davy Jones. Writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, who are absolute GENIUSES of plot complexities, made the storyline a lot more intricate the second and third time around. Now, instead of the POTC series being about a damsel who is caught between true love and societal expectations and her adventures with pirates, now every character had his or her own motivation, which often times got very confusing. By the third film, we had anywhere from two to five villains (Norrington, Beckett, Barbossa, Sao Fang, and of course, Davy Jones), when we really only had one in the first film in the form of Captain Barbossa, and MAYBE Norrington.
But I fell in love with the third film because truly, it wraps every single hanging plot point beautifully. The lovebirds Elizabeth and Will get their ending, however happily tragic, Norrington meets his match, Beckett and Jones get their just desserts, and Barbossa gets what he’s always wanted. The only fate left in question is Jack Sparrow’s, but as he is the main character, you assume that the journey he is taking will continue as long as time itself. Although the protagonist, Jack is a static character in that through and through, he is quite simply, THE pirate. He will do what he wants when he wants it, and will leave everyone else in the dust wondering what in the world just happened.
The climax of the picture, which takes place in a gigantic maelstrom, is well choreographed and paced, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats. The added setting of Singapore is unique and is a relatively unexplored part of the cinematic universe. The music is top-notch, with Hans Zimmer’s beautifully composed score reflecting the adventure of the plot, infused with some Asian-based instruments.
The only thing that is constantly criticized about the film is the most important elements—story and length. The film is nearly three hours long, and you are truly exhausted by the end of it. I argue that the length is necessary, but only because Elliot and Rossio made the second film with so many added plot points that they needed to wrap up. The story gets very confusing to someone who isn’t on board with the entire plot and can’t suspend their disbelief. If you blink, you will miss an important plot point. This is not an ideal situation for a summer film, which are generally designed to appeal to mass audiences, and mass audiences are usually not die-hard pirate fans like I was (am). Elliot and Rossio tried to allow some mindless scenes for relief that the audience could stop trying to comprehend the thick story, which typically involved Jack Sparrow hallucinating. Their attempts at relief backfired hoever, as these scenes, when juxtaposed with the high action of the rest of the picture, seem extraneous and unnecessary. I however am not bothered by this as much as some, because I found Depp’s antics truly something to admire.
Which brings me to what endears me the most to this film— the acting. If you want to see Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Stellan Skarsgard, Bill Nighy, Naomi Harris, and Tom Hollander pull out some truly fine acting, give this film another chance. This is surprising, as according to Depp, none of the actors understood the story themselves. They simply were proceeding scene by scene, unsure of how each piece fit together. However, they all work so well as an ensemble and as individuals, which is truly indicative of not only their talent, but also their appreciation for each other. The movie series was such a large scale project that they at times didn’t even know would appeal to an audience at all, and through these many strifes, you can clearly see how close the actors grew to each other in the process. When an original character dies, it seems as though the reactions of the other characters on screen are genuine. In their final shots, as at this time no one knew if there would be more films to follow, each actor seems to have sadness reflected in their eyes, as though they know that this is the end of something truly fantastic. This is followed up by the BEST credit music in the history of ever, where you can clearly feel the energy that the Royal Philharmonic puts into that incredible score.
It is the best end to an epic-scale series that I have witnessed to date, and I personally don’t think will ever be surpassed. I of course was excited to see POTC 4, which was far easier to understand, but that incredible relationship between the actors was missing because so many of them were either killed off in the third film, or decided simply not to return. And now that POTC 5 has been announced as the final film of the series which is set to be released in 2017, I sincerely hope that the characters who have not been killed off will return as a nostalgic nod to a fantastic endeavor that will have started fifteen years prior. (And even characters that have been killed off. I am a believer that Norrington is not dead. BRING BACK NORRINGTON!! Actually, can we make that a thing? #norringtonlives )
So that’s why I love Pirates of the Caribbean 3; At World’s End. I love that I kept up with the story, I love the music, I love the settings, I love the actors, I love that I can recite full forty minute segments, but for the life of me I cannot explain the Pythagorean Theorem to you. Please give the movie a second chance, forgive its flaws, and suspend your disbelief. I guarantee you that you still will not like it as much as I do, as I could never love your favorite movie as much as you do.
You have a movie out there that you feel was made only for you. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was made only for me. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?
Drink up, me hearties yo ho!