by The Rev. Mark Buetow
I enjoyed the first Pirates of the Caribbean. I really did. I thought Jack Sparrow was hilarious and the action was good. I even though the ending wrapped things up pretty well. If that was the only Pirates movie to be made, I would have been happy. But they had a sequel. And it was long. And it was slow. And the story wasn't really clear to me. So I didn't really enjoy it. Well, the third installment has arrived. Would it tie up lose ends? Would it bring the whole story to a satisfying conclusion? The answer, after seeing the movie, is a resounding "No" to all of the above. Pirates 3 was a very long movie that moved slowly and the story was a bit confusing and for a fantasy type epic, the ending wasn't very satisfying. Now, I will give full disclosure. Last year we went to Disney World in Florida and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was closed down for renovation. So I didn't get to ride this classic. Maybe that's where my disappointment ultimately stems from. Then again, I think this latest Pirates film was really not a particularly great flick.
PLOT SPOILER WARNING: The plot, as best as I can figure it out goes like this: Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) has to destroy the heart of Davy Jones in order to put him to final rest and rescue his father from Davy Jone's crew. If he does this, he'll become the next captain and be the immortal but bound captain of that cursed ship, the Flying Dutchman. Elisabthe, Wil Turner's love becomes a captain in her own right as things unfold. The story begins with the search for Jack Sparrow (who is dead and in the limbo of Davy Jones' Locker). Once they get him and his ship the Black Pearl back, they can go and carry this out. Lord Beckett, the haughty Englishman whose sole role in life is to exterminate the last of these pirates is also in on the constantly switching plans of who's going to do what. I won't give away the final ending, but let's just say the hero doesn't quite get the girl and Jack Sparrow could return in a sequeal (though I won't be seeing it).
As with all the Pirates movies the special effects are really good. But I'm getting crotchety in my old age and I am no longer into a movie solely for its special effects. There has to be a good story. Engaging plot. Interesting characters. Sadly, Pirates: At World's End is really lacking in these areas. Since this is a Higher Things movie review I suppose I should comment on any philosophical or theological themes that come through. But even here it's a tough sell. When it comes down to it, the "theme" might be the ages-old quest to cheat death and live forever. Some do and some don't in this movie but never in ways that are satisfying. There's certainly no portrayal of a heavenly afterlife or eternal punishment, just a dreary immortal existence in one fashion or another. Another bit of theme that might be explored is how people like Elisabeth and Will descend from being ordinary good citizens down into the realm of becoming pirates themselves. Following Jack Sparrow might be an explanation except that he's not a really terrifying pirate. The British government is cast as a freedom-crushing regime whilst the pirate brethren are portrayed as all about freedom. (I accept the whole fantasy pirate bit, but hey! Pirates were pretty bad people in real life!) There just doesn't seem to be any real contrast between right or wrong or even heroism versus selfish self-preservation.
I'm sorry to say it, but I don't really recomment Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. It's too long. The plot isn't particularly clear or interesting. The action is limited and almost all toward the end of the film. The characters which should be well developed by a third movie are not. If you really, really don't have anything to do for almost three hours, then go see it. Otherwise, you might want to pass and watch the first one again. It's really the best of the three by a long shot!
The Rev. Mark Buetow is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in DuQuoin, Illinois. He is editor-in-chief of Higher Things' Daily Reflections.