Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (DVD)

OK, let me get this straight. In the first movie (Curse of the Black Pearl), Captain Barbossa (Rush) was the bad guy. Captain Jack Sparrow's mortal enemy. Who also wanted to sacrifice Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) to turn himself and his ghostly crew human again. So now, two films later, he's teamed up with Elizabeth and Will (Bloom) to help rescue Jack. Why? Where's the logic? Where's his motivation for suddenly becoming all buddy-buddy with his enemies?

That's just one of many gripes about POTC: At World's End. For a start, it's waaaaay too long. When it was showing at cinemas, you had to pack a cut lunch, fill a waterbag and fit a catheter. Yes, it's that long. But now it's on DVD, at least you can pause the film for toilet, meal, shower and sleep breaks. It's interesting to note that Verbinski seems to get longer with each film — Black Pearl was 143 minutes, Dead Man's Chest was 155 minutes and now this one clocks in at just a little under three hours. In his review of Black Pearl, US critic Roger Ebert said that inside it was a nice little 90-minute B-movie struggling to get out. Ditto this time — 2 hours, tops, and this would be a real winner. Gore, take a hint, mate — sometimes, less really is more. Speaking of more ... could he have made the plot any more convoluted or long-winded? It really is a lot like Mission: Impossible on the high seas. As the film opens, the East India Trading Company has clamped down on piracy and is hanging everyone who even vaguely looks like a pirate — even children, which goes against the grain a bit in a Disney film. Against this tyranny, Barbossa, Elizabeth and Will must form allegiances that they don’t want to — and that the viewer possibly won’t even understand — to get Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) out of Davy Jones’ Locker and back into the land of the living, ready to join his scruffy puirate gang for the final battle.

And speaking of dirty, scruffy pirates — what is the deal with Elizabeth looking so gorgeous the whole time? I mean, she's supposed to be a pirate. Yet how many pirates take an entourage of hairdressers and makeup artists to sea with them? I mean, just look at her — there she is, standing among all those dirty, snaggle-toothed, bedraggled pirates, nary a hair or eyebrow out of place, makeup done to perfection, a picture of quiet, seductive beauty. Still, I guess anyone would look good standing next to a guy with a squid for a face. And another gripe: for nigh on two-thirds of the film, the dialogue is incomprehensible — either through mumbled or heavily-accented voices, or music and special effectes overpowering the speech. A real plus with the DVD is that you can watch it with the subtitles on.

All right, enough of the cons — what about the pros? Well, there are a few — particularly the climactic battle scene, which is big, silly, funny, exciting and romantic: all the things that made the first Pirates movie such a joy — but as you'd expect, there is one really big positive in the film ... and his name is Johnny Depp. What can I say about his performance as Cap'n Jack that hasn't already been said a hundred times? As with the first two films, he steals every scene he's in. And in scenes there are more than one of him, he steals the scenes from himself (it's complicated, don't ask). Rush comes close — you can clearly see he's enjoying himself, and it's marvellous fun watching him and Depp togther, chewing up the scenery — telescope envy and all. And with At World's End — which, despite all my complaints, is still rollicking good fun for the most part — makeing bucketloads of money, you can bet your booty there will be a fourth. But here's some advice for Verbinski, Bruckheimer et al — dump Knightley and Bloom; their characters are dull and have run their course. Just give us Depp, please. Lots of Depp. You know we want it.

EXTRAS **** As you'd expect with a 2-disc edition, there's a shipload of bonus material. Surprisingly, there's no director's or cast commentary. But there's plenty of other stuff to look at: Keith And The Captain, an on-set visit with Depp and RIchards; bloopers (minus the swearing, of course); deleted scenes, a featurette about the multiple Jacks scene; a look at how the maelstrom scene was created; a music featurette; a look inside the Brethren Court; and more.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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