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Abandon ship!

Ted Alvarez

The first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film took what should’ve been a terrible concept – a movie based on an amusement park ride – and turned our expectations inside out by delivering a witty genre pic, much abetted by the introduction of Johnny Depp’s now-iconic Jack Sparrow. The second installment, “Dead Man’s Chest,” traded the original’s intelligence and carefree nature for an overblown trip into needlessly convoluted plotlines and stuffed-to-the-gills action sequences. It was much, much bigger, but definitely not better.The ride-that-became-a-movie-that-became-a-ride-again concludes with “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” and though there is visual bedazzlement galore and the requisite hijinks of Sparrow, it is of a piece with “Dead Man’s Chest,” banking on humongous, endless battle sequences to beat audiences into submission, the better to help them forget about trying to unravel all of the loose plot strands and pointless double-crosses. But even the most vigorous special-effects junkie might lose interest when his or her seat inevitably starts to hurt over the nearly three-hour running time.If you’ll recall (and a rewatching of “PotC: DMC” certainly doesn’t hurt), we last left Captain Jack Sparrow as he dove into the mouth of the Kraken, accepting his fate at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker. Captain Barbossa, the formerly dead villain from the first film, has returned to help get Jack back; you see, Sparrow’s needed for a meeting of the pirate lords to determine how best to survive against an impending onslaught from Davy Jones and the East India Trading Company. The snide leader of the East India Trading company, Lord Cutler Beckett, possesses the heart of Davy Jones and can thus command him to wipe out pirates across the seven seas. But it takes nearly an hour to even get to Jack Sparrow. First there’s sneaking to be done in Singapore (where the pirate Sao Feng has charts to get to World’s End, and thusly, Davy Jones’ locker) and three or four double-crosses to get through. When we finally meet Jack, his trapped on the Black Pearl in the middle of an endless desert, captaining a ship composed entirely of himself. Director Gore Verbinski is fantastic at creating dramatic, beautiful vistas (the bleach-white desert, crabs made of stone and ghostly souls drifting underwater make particularly strong impressions), but they rarely signify anything when the films strange whatever-works fantasy logic drives the plot. Can’t figure out how to get out of Davy Jones’ locker? Why, capsize the ship, silly! Verbinski stages manic, bodies-flying-through-the-air battle scenes, and while they are often thrilling, they go on too long, only to be followed by long sections of exposition, where pirates tell us what they need to do, will do, or should’ve done. Davy Jones and his Fishy band of evil pirates still look fantastic, but they’re mostly underused, and the relative personality of the Kraken is missed. A major plot point about the sea goddess Calypso has little payoff, despite heavy buildup.Bill Nighy is good, even under layers of CGI, and Depp still has his moments as Jack Sparrow, even though the novelty has worn off a bit and he’s offscreen for large chunks of time. Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann are still pretty boring, even after she’s elected pirate king (don’t ask).For my money, the best performance in the film belongs to Jack – not Jack Sparrow, mind you, but Jack the invincible, undead monkey. He’s called on to deliver punchlines, freeze in Antarctica and get fired out of a cannon, and he excels at all of them without a single word. Beat that, Sparrow.Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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