Avast ye bilge rats

Pi­rates 3 is an end­less, lum­ber­ing tub of creaky cliches, writes Don­ald Clarke PI­RATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END Di­rected by Gore Verbin­ski. Star­ring Johnny Depp, Ge­of­frey Rush, Or­lando Bloom, Keira Knight­ley, Stel­lan Skars­gard, Bill Nighy, Chow-Yu

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews Film -

ABOUT eight hours into the latest marathon ex­er­cise in wa­ter tor­ture from Dis­ney, Capt Jack Spar­row, fic­tional per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of a wel­come long out­stayed, does some­thing es­pe­cially te­dious with a can­non, a rope and some part of a ship’s rig­ging. “Do you think he plans it?” some­body re­marks. “Or does he make it up as he goes along?” Good ques­tion, sir.

This com­ment has, pre­sum­ably, been in­serted to re­mind us of a sim­i­lar line in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But, whereas Spiel­berg’s en­ter­tain­ment did bear traces of a screen­writer’s hand, At World’s End looks as if it re­ally was im­pro­vised in a col­lec­tive rush by sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple, no two of whom share a com­mon lan­guage. Spi­der-Man 3, whose sur­feit of dis­con­nected plots was bur­den­some enough, seems like a Chekhov short story by com­par­i­son.

Sum­marise the plot? One might as well at­tempt to draw up a pré­cis of the ran­dom dam­age caused by an earth­quake or a vol­cano. By the time the even more te­dious Dead Man’s Chest fi­nally slipped into a coma, Johnny Depp’s Capt Jack had been dis­patched to the un­der­world, and Capt Bar­bossa (Ge­of­frey Rush) had re­turned to help El­iz­a­beth Swann (Keira Knight­ley) and Will Turner (Or­lando Bloom) fur­ther their cam­paign against 1) the Bri­tish Em­pire, 2) a man with a squid for a head (Bill Nighy) and – dou­ble-crosses be­ing ubiq­ui­tous in th­ese af­fairs – 3) each an­other.

The new film, a sort of pointand-click com­puter game fouled up by a nasty virus, sets the cast a dizzy­ing se­ries of ut­terly point­less chal­lenges: they must re­trieve Jack from the land be­neath; they must col­lect a se­ries of magic coins; they must cap­ture the heart of squid-man; they must send waves of seda­tive fumes about the un­for­tu­nate au­di­ence. None of th­ese quests meshes sat­is­fac­to­rily with any an­other, and the sig­nif­i­cance of each is kept in­fu­ri­at­ingly ob­scure.

More alien­at­ing still is the de­ci­sion to con­struct a uni­verse where vir­tu­ally any­thing, even a char­ac­ter’s re­turn from be­yond the grave, ap­pears to be pos­si­ble. If death is no longer ab­so­lutely fi­nal, then the peril posed by a flash­ing cut­lass is sig­nif­i­cantly less­ened.

There is, to be fair, at least one im­pres­sive set-piece in this big, stupid film. Capt Jack’s bizarre ex­pe­ri­ences in the land of the dead – his ship, crewed by a dozen ver­sions of him­self, gets car­ried across the desert by a wave of crabs – re­veal a hith­erto un­sus­pected tal­ent for dis­qui­et­ing sur­re­al­ism on di­rec­tor Gore Verbin­ski’s part.

And the most mi­nor char­ac­ters, no­tably Macken­zie Crook’s monoc­u­lar id­iot, are granted sev­eral de­cent comic asides.

At World’s End does, how­ever, play like a mas­sive com­pi­la­tion of des­per­ately tired, too fre­quently told jokes, none of which was all that good in the first place. Was there re­ally a time when Depp’s fruity ham­ming seemed any­thing other than pro­foundly ir­ri­tat­ing? Back, per­haps, when di­nosaurs walked the earth and Keith Richards’s jowls had not yet sagged to his ox­ters. The Rolling Stone turns up in a per­func­tory turn as on old sea dog and, though sin­gu­larly un­a­mus­ing, finds his barely con­scious de­meanour quite suited to the som­no­lent pro­ceed­ings around him.

Lord Richards’s ap­pear­ance, com­ing af­ter Depp’s re­peated ac­knowl­edg­ment of the mu­si­cian’s in­flu­ence on Jack’s vo­cal stylings, would, in a per­fect world, play a sim­i­lar role to King Richard’s ar­rival at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It’s over. You can all go home. Sadly, the fi­nal scenes of At World’s End sug­gest there is ev­ery chance of a fourth film in this baf­flingly pop­u­lar fran­chise.

Only you, the po­ten­tial ticket buyer, can stop such an un­wanted en­tity from man­i­fest­ing it­self.

Old sea dogs Chow-Yun Fat, Ge­of­frey Rush and Johnny Depp ham it up in Pi­rates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

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