The third in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series has a handful of imaginative moments, several exciting ones and a few moving ones, as well. Still, while I really liked stretches of the film, I still have to say that this comes in as the weakest of the three pictures, mainly due to a running time that feels considerably bloated. This time around, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley), and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) head to the Orient to try and get information from Pirate Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat).
Turner, Swann and Barbosa are attempting to find their way to save Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), currently stuck in Davy Jones' Locker (read: limbo) after the events of the end of the second picture. While stuck, Jack finds himself in the middle of nowhere, seeing multiples of himself, who all work for him on a ship that's stuck in the middle of a desert. It's only when a fleet of rather adorable rock crabs come to the rescue does Jack have any hope.
Meanwhile, villain Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) has taken control of the Flying Dutchman, the ship of cursed Davey Jones (Bill Nighy), and has set his sights on finally riding the seas of any and all pirates. When Will and the others rescue Jack, they all head to Shipwreck Cove, a pirate fortress where the pirate lords will meet to decide what to do about getting their seas back from Beckett and others like him.
...And that's really the short version. "At World's End" is the longest of the three films, and the film's 100+ minutes of overstuffed build-up eventually start to become tedious, despite some wonderful sequences within, such as a moment where the crew of the Black Pearl must turn their ship upside down to return from limbo. When the film's action does start up in force in the last hour, it's as exciting as anything else in the series (although the decision to lump the majority of the action towards the end makes it become almost exhausting once it does start) , but the way that the film tries to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mix ends up working against it.
Another concern is that Bloom and Knightley - the two most bland actors - get a large chunk of the focus in the picture. While their final moments in the film together are surprisingly bittersweet for a movie like this, their "will they or won't they?" romance has otherwise started to wear out its welcome and the chemistry between the two actors has lessened. Knightley's character gets more to do this time around, but I didn't buy the plot twist that happens halfway through the picture that gives her character a greater role in the proceedings.
However, with these two characters getting the focus, that leaves little time for legendary Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat, who is utterly wasted in a minor role. Of the issues with this film - and there are several - this is probably the worst, as I couldn't believe that the filmmakers were able to get Chow Yun-Fat and really give him nothing to do. Depp and Rush are still entertaining, although Depp seems to be straining a bit to pull out another round of Captain Jack. Depp's best moments are playing off himself, as several Captain Jacks riffing off one another proves more entertaining than just one.
I didn't truly dislike "At World's End", but the impact of the movie's best moments is lessened by so much unnecessary filler . Not only that, but the film moves some of the most interesting characters - such as Sao Feng - to the background in order to focus on less engaging ones: I mean, do we really need more of wacky sidekicks Pintel (Mackenzie Crook) and Ragetti (Lee Arenburg)? The first and second "Pirates" films were mostly breezy fun, but the second film saw the franchise starting to take itself too seriously, which is more evident here.
If there's going to be another film in this series - and the ending clearly leaves it open for another movie (as does the "after credits" sequence) - I hope there's a sizable break between this film and the next one, as the series needs to chart a new course and go back to the swifter, more energetic style that made the first film such a success.
VIDEO: Disney presents "At World's End" in 2.35;1 anamorphic widescreen. Sharpness and detail are splendid throughout the feature, as the movie looked crisp and well-defined at all times. Some minor edge enhancement appeared in a few scenes, but the majority of the movie looked clean and free of issues. No artifacting was seen, nor were any print flaws. Colors looked appropriately rich in some scenes and subdued in others. Black level also looked solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. Overall, this was a marvelous transfer that presented every detail of the mega-budget flick well.
SOUND: As one might expect, the third "Pirates" flick delivers an explosive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, especially during the major battles in the last hour. Surrounds kicked in aggressively and often, with sound effects (gunfire, waves, wind, etc), score and ambience pouring out of the rear speakers.
EXTRAS: The first disc offers a mildly amusing set of bloopers, as well as a few previews for other Disney titles. The second disc of the Special Edition offers more extras, the biggest of which is a "making of" for the "Maelstrom" sequence towards the end of the picture. The documentary is informative in that it provides a good look at the production and effects of the sequence.
"Keith and the Captain: On Set with Johnny and the Rock Legend" is a short featurette that looks at the Keith Richards cameo. "The Tale of the Many Jacks" is an insightful and entertaining look at the creation of the "Multiple Jacks" sequence. "The World of Chow Yun-Fat" is a brief look at the actor's joining the cast of the third film. A pair of deleted scenes (with optional commentary) are nothing more than a couple of quick snippets - although the second scene is awfully funny.
We also get 5 short featurettes on production design, a featurette on the score, another featurette on the "Hoist the Colours" song and finally, one regarding the various pirate lords. Overall, given the size and scope of the production, the extras are rather disappointing, as they lack depth.
Final Thoughts: "At World's End" has terrific moments and is mildly entertaining overall, but the nearly 3-hour length is just way too much, and tightening the picture (and giving Chow Yun-Fat more than a thankless role) would have helped greatly. The DVD presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, but the extras come up short in comparison to those provided on the DVD sets for the prior two films. Fans should seek out the 1-DVD edition, as the 2-DVD Special Edition doesn't have enough extras on the second disc to justify the price.