Credit the filmmakers of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” for aspiring to break the mold of typical summer action fare. Blame them for making the most exposition-heavy popcorn movie in recent memory.
The latest installment in this series lacks the “Indiana Jones”-inspired action scenes of its predecessor, “Dead Man’s Chest,” and is better suited for the stage than a movie screen. Not that the movie’s screenplay would make it any more bearable as a play.
That’s because “At World’s End” feels contrived, as if conceived and written after producer Jerry Bruckheimer realized the phenomenal financial success of the first film in 2003. As such, the plot points in “At World’s End” seem grafted on to retroactively give depth to its main characters Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom).
But the movie is so top-heavy with double crosses and wordy explanations that director Gore Verbinski forgets to add dramatic heft to the “big” moments. The first two “Pirates” also were overly busy, but their frantic pacing included lots of inventive touches. This ostensibly final film exhaustively tries to tie up the “Pirates” mythology — but instead it’s just exhausting.
What happened to the action scenes, such as the Rube Goldberg-styled pole vault and mill-wheel swordfight in “Dead Man’s Chest”? They are replaced by set pieces that are more succinct — and depressingly generic.
Johnny Depp stays true to Captain Jack Sparrow’s rakish nature, and he continues slipping in some motor-mouthed wordplay and advanced vocabulary (“It’s pronounced ‘egregious,’” he says, chastising two female prostitutes). Too bad these glimmers of maverick spirit get swept up by a tide of characters who would rather explain their actions than justify them with their swords.
Maybe their blades are dull; the movie sure is.