Captain Jack Returns from the dead.
After thrilling audiences with two incredible movies, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was on the verge of becoming the Star Wars of the new millennium. Of course all the writers had to do was not make the third movie awful and Pirates would be guaranteed a spot among the best trilogies ever. That can’t be too hard right, with Johnny Depp basically carrying all the weight as Captain Jack Sparrow. You’d almost have to try to make the movie bad. This was about as much of a lay-up as you can get. So what ended up happening???
Well the just happened to churn out one unbelievably good film, that’s what. (Thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?) In all seriousness, the third installment of Pirates of the Caribbean definitely held serve with the other two movies. I’d rank it ahead of “Curse of the Black Pearl”, but behind “Dead Man’s Chest”. And that’s pretty good company as far as movies go. In fact, these three films together are probably the greatest movie trilogy of all time. And they’re definitely my personal favorite.
That statement may cause Sci-fi geeks to wave their light sabers in anger, or cause the mafia to put a contract out on me for denying the Godfather, but it’s the truth. Star Wars Episodes IV and V are epic movies. But “Return of the Jedi” is basically The Muppet Show gone bad. Can you really make a case for a trilogy with two good movies and one so-so film, vs. Pirates, where all three were phenomenal? Same thing goes for The Godfather with it’s so-so Part 3. Point blank, all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies never missed a beat. What other trilogy as big as this one can say that?
Huh? Oh, Lord of the Rings? Ok, you’ve got me there with the “three good movies” argument. But don’t begin to discount the fact that Elijah Wood was the main character in those films. That fact alone completely disqualifies those movies from this discussion. Case. Closed.
So what did I feel kept “At World’s End” from matching the greatness of “Dead Man’s Chest”? Perhaps the #1 reason was the lack of true “Captain Jack” moments. The fact that this movie was basically one gigantic, heavy build-up to a final battle had something to do with it, but there just weren’t many times when Jack was cracking jokes and being the happy-go-lucky pirate that we’ve come to love. Also, Sparrow was much more of a “super-human” fighter in this movies. Usually, Captain Jack gets himself out of sticky situations by running away and coming up with hair-brained tricks out of thin air. You never really got that feel from him this time around. The way he was swashbuckling and flying around on ropes, he seemed more like Spiderman.
Another thing that I felt hurt the movie was the lack of big fights throughout. Don’t get me wrong the 30-45 minute epic battle at the end was unquestionably the best fight scene this franchise has ever given us. But other than a smaller battle in the beginning, you had to wait for the whole movie to really get to an all-out brawl. I remember the other Pirates movies made you feel like there was constant fighting going on. There just wasn’t that constant sensation of chaos this time around. Just a slow build to an absolute masterpiece of a fight.
Now for what I did like. First off, all the backstabbing was incredible! Absolutely everyone was stabbing everyone else in the back. In fact, there was so much deception going on, it was nearly impossible to keep track of who was cheating whom. Like most Pirate movies, this one will take a second viewing before you can 100% understand what everyone was thinking. For some people that might be frustrating, but I’m just ecstatic for any movie that can make me think these days.
What I liked the most, however, was how smart the writer’s were in setting this movie up for a fourth installment. Yes, Pirates of the Caribbean was only supposed to be a trilogy. But after the second and third movies both set the world record for the largest grossing opening weekend, how can you NOT make a fourth one? Stopping the series now would be leaving millions of dollars on the table. If you’re Disney, you’ve got to beat this franchise into the ground and milk it for all it’s worth.
In my review of “Dead Man’s Chest”, I covered the three way battle between Captain Jack, Will Turner, and Norrington for Davey Jones’ heart. I mentioned how having Norrington end up with the heart was the best way to move the plotline along, and how shocked I was that a Hollywood blockbuster didn’t sell-out for the happy ending and actually did the right thing. Well once again, Davey Jones’ heart was up for grabs. Captain Jack desperately wanted to be the one to stab it and thereby become immortal. That was basically his goal for the entire movie. But the whole time I’m thinking to myself, “If they really wanted to make a fourth movie, they should have Will Turner be the one to stab it so he’s forced to be separated from Elizabeth for ten years.”
A good thought, right? I mean, that would set up an entire plot for a fourth film. But this is the last movie in a trilogy, there’s no way that they’re going to leave us with the unhappy ending again! They’ve got to sell-out this time and have Will and Elizabeth live happily ever after.
Wouldn’t you know, Davey Jones stabs Will through the heart, and Jack is forced to let him stab Jones’ heart to keep from dying. Will Turner takes over as Captain of the Flying Dutchman, and is forced to leave Elizabeth, unable to step foot on dry land for another ten years. Want more setup for a fourth film? Barbosa manages to steal The Black Pearl out from under Captain Jack’s nose. Now how do you go and leave this story with Jack shipless and Will and Elizabeth separated for a decade?
You don’t. So bring on Pirates IV: The Fountain of Youth, soon to become the latest installment in the greatest Quadrilogy of all time!