Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, by Albert W. Vogt III

If only the subtitle in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) meant the final entry in the cinematic universe that is this franchise.  Actually, it could have been, but they decided to mush on with two more after this one.  For those of you who think filmmaking is simply about producing quality movies, I give you this series.  There is a money-making formula to them that has netted them billions of dollars.  They do not care whether or not they make sense, only about shoving as much ridiculous action and Captain Jack Sparrow-isms (Johnny Depp) onto the screen as possible as the cash rolls into their coffers.  It is almost too obvious to complain about, so I will stop.  My hope with these reviews is that in addition to exposing them for the cynical, cash-grab pieces of garbage that they are, that my Catholic perspective will help explain why on a deeper level.

The so-called “action” in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End picks up relatively where its predecessor ended.  The voodoo priestess Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) had given the remaining crew of the infamous pirate ship the Black Pearl a way of reaching Jack in the great beyond.  Apparently, this involves finding a new vessel and extra hands to man it.  Where do you go for such resources?  Why, to Singapore, naturally, and the base of Asian corsair Sao Feng (Chow Yun-fat).  To be fair, it is not as random as I am making it out to be.  Sao Feng possesses a map they need to find their way to the afterlife, but he is reluctant to hand it over.  While Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) attempt to negotiate with Sao Feng, the other Black Pearlers sneak below anticipating an ambush.  They also discover that Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) was unsuccessful in his solo attempt to steal the map, and is a prisoner of Sao Feng.  Before any real violence can break out, their conference is interrupted by soldiers of the East India Company.  In the ensuing fracas, Will and Sao Feng strike a deal for Jack, who Sao Feng wants for revenge purposes and Will wants the Black Pearl in order to save his father, William “Bootstrap Bill” Turner (Stellan Skarsgård).  From there, with a ship and crew provided by Sao Feng, they head into a frozen sea with Tia guiding them.  As they go, we are finally shown Jack in Davy Jones’ locker, going mad aboard the Black Pearl, which had been swallowed with him by the kraken in the previous film.  So crazy are things becoming for him that when Barbossa, Elizabeth, and Will are dumped upon the sandy waste that is where souls apparently go, Jack does not believe they are real.  After some convincing, they all board the Black Pearl and head back the way the came.  Along the route, they see a number of boats with single occupants heading in the other direction.  Among them is Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce), Elizabeth’s father, and it is at this point they realize that these people are dead.  His passing is the result of treachery on Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), chairman of the East Indian Company.  Speaking of which, thanks to the newly promoted to Admiral James Norrington (Jack Davenport) who brought the heart of Davy Jones to Lord Beckett, the company is in control of the deadly Flying Dutchman and its crew.  They all catch up with the Black Pearl when it re-emerges in the world and stops for supplies.  As per his usual, Jack strikes a deal with Lord Beckett to save his own skin, involving giving the company the location of where the pirate Brethren Court will be convening so they can rid the seas of piracy.  Sao Feng also happens to be nearby, who is on hand to get even with Jack, and makes a deal with Barbossa for Elizabeth in exchange for the Black Pearl.  This is apparently not to Lord Beckett’s liking, for he sends Davy Jones after Sao Feng.  In the attack, the mortally wounded Sao Feng appoints Elizabeth his heir as a pirate lord (truly, a bit of made-up nonsense for this film alone).  Her imprisonment aboard the Flying Dutchman is brief as Admiral Norrington redeems himself, helping her escape.  This allows her to make it to the meeting of the Brethren Court.  Of course, Barbossa is one of these stupid lords, and his desire is to fight the company and Davy Jones by releasing Calypso, who is Tia in human form.  The others favor turning tail and running.  Jack has another idea: naming a pirate king to tell them what to do.  Being who they are, the lords all nominate themselves, but Jack votes for Elizabeth.  She favors fighting, and that is what they do.  Before the climactic battle, Barbossa and company release Calypso, which causes a maelstrom between the pirate and company fleets.  Into it sails the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman because that is a great idea, firing away at one another.  Jack is after the case holding Davey Jones’ heart, hoping to claim the ship for himself and pirate immortality.  Instead, before he can stab the heart and become the Flying Dutchman’s new captain, Davey Jones mortally wounds Will.  To save Will, they place a dagger in his hand, and he becomes the new skipper.  Together, the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman destroy Lord Beckett and his ship, and pirates are safe once again.  Elizabeth and Will, married by Barbossa in the middle of the battle, must part because Will carries the same curse as Davey Jones, and Jack heads off in search of the Fountain of Youth.

I do not know where to begin with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.  I cannot tell you why it has this geographical location in the title as none of the action happens in the Caribbean.  Why is there such consternation over releasing Calypso when all it amounts to is a mildly annoying storm and whirlpool?  Most of the time while watching these films, I am either sitting slack-jawed in disbelief or laughing at the utter improbability of it all.  Actually, this film has the most honest moment of all of them when Jack explains that he copes by closing his eyes and pretending it is all a dream.  I cannot do that, though, as I need to view these trainwrecks in order to talk about them.  I am also dancing around here trying to find inspiration to talk about this from a Catholic perspective.  It is hard to do because every character, and I am not exaggerating, is backstabbing one another at almost every turn of the movie.  It makes it hard to not only root for anybody, but to keep track of plot as you do not whose side somebody is on from one second to the next.  I am not trying to say that every Catholic is straightforward and trustworthy simply by being a member of the Church.  Yet, if you follow its teachings, you will likely not be prone to the kind of shenanigans for which the pirates in these movies are lauded.  One decision I did not like is making Will into the new captain of the Flying Dutchman.  The movie gives them one last moment together as he and Elizabeth spend a day ashore before Will must rejoin his ship.  It is also really awkward as Elizabeth seems to be blissful as Will kisses her knee.  Hey, this is Disney, so they are not going to show all that, which is fine by this square Catholic.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is the conclusion of a trilogy, though they decided to make more of these movies.  Again, outside of the mere desire to make more money, I do not understand why they undertake these productions.  At least Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley had the good sense to stay away after this one.

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