Complex plot muddies waters for ‘Pirates’

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" follows in the path of its predecessors, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," in telling the tales of its stars, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly), William Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

The movie takes place in a truly gloomy time for pirates. The British Empire is hanging anyone accused of being a pirate or associating with the like. Even young children are not immune to the hangings. Not knowing what else to do, the frightened and hunted pirates call for a meeting of the nine pirate lords, a group known as the Brethren Court.

Each of the lords has in his or her possession one of the nine "pieces of eight," random trinkets from playing cards to a glass eye, that proves his or her status.

Of course, gathering all of the members of the Brethren Court is a bit of a challenge. For one thing, Jack Sparrow, a longtime lord, has died without passing on his piece of eight to a successor. Not knowing what else to do, Elizabeth and William, led by the resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) set off with a familiar cast of pirates to Davy Jones’ Locker, where Sparrow is spending his days hallucinating next to the Black Pearl.

"Pirates" speeds off from there, following a complex and fast-paced plotline of bargains and betrayals, goddesses and Davy Jones’ fish people, lasting almost three hours. While viewers who have been fans of the series from the beginning are sure to be satisfied by the complexity of the plot (including a surprise meeting with Jack Sparrow’s father), those who do not remember the other movies well are bound to be confused before the movie ends, as even the characters seem to almost lose track of what they promised to whom and why.

The movie was so long, and the plot so complex, that it would have been much better as two medium-length movies, instead of a marathon of three hours.

Seemingly a solemn plotline for a movie (persecution is never a cheery subject, after all), "Pirates" manages to put a good amount of laughs in the mix. The fight scenes in particular tend to be the most humorous, featuring Jack the monkey setting off a fireworks display and — the highlight of the movie — a spur-of-the-moment proposal and wedding.

As always, Captain Jack manages to contribute to the humor load of "Pirates," this time by having hallucinations, or possibly visions, of other Jack Sparrows, sometimes as the classic angel-and-devil-on-the-shoulders gag, and other times as dozens of Jacks whom he bosses around for no apparent reason, trying to get them to make a boat move over dry land.

The end of the movie is more than a little bit disappointing, breaking the slightly optimistic tone that the "Pirates" trilogy has had to date. However, it is slightly more satisfying if viewers sit through the credits to watch a short "10 years later" epilogue that gives the movie a little more closure, though still leaving a bit of room open for another sequel should the need arise.

Overall, "Pirates" lives up to its name, including the classic music, panoramic views and more than a little bit of romance that have all become signatures of the trilogy.

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