I work part-time as a projectionist for a local movie theater. It is, in my respects, a sweet-ass job; the hours run late if you work nights, but even with various cleaning chores, each six hour shift is probably no more than three hours or so of actual work, and it’s infinitely preferable to getting stuck down on the floor in concessions. (Fun Fact: theater workers have surprisingly little control over popcorn prices. Yelling at us will actually not save you any money.)
But the best perk is getting to see new movies a day or so before their official “release.” The way it works is, every print we get from the distributors arrives at the theater in multiple reels, which have to be then built by the head projectionist into one big reel plus trailers. That big reel has to be “run down,” or previewed to make sure there are no errors in the print; things like frame jumps or major scratchings. Most often this happens late Thursday nights, after the last set of movies runs through, but sometimes, especially when we get multiple prints, it happens earlier.
Which is all a long way of explaining how I got to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End a couple of days before you did. (Caution: extremely mild spoilers ahead.)(Extremely)
One line review: Sweet jeebus, it’s almost three hours long.
You know how everybody said, “Sure, part 2 is annoying, but it’s really just there to set up part 3!” Apparently, these people were lying (not naming names) or stupid (me), because part three spends a good portion of its 168 minute running time laying even more nearly incomprehensible exposition on us. Oh, sure, I followed everything, but it was hard to know what the hell I bothered.
So Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is in Davey Jones Locker, which is basically a slightly more difficult to get to Hell, and our heroes (Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush), in addition to a number of superfluous minor characters who Will Not Die, have decided to rescue him, because, well, they really miss him. Really. At least, that was the motivation given at the end of Dead Man’s Chest; but it turns out, they’re actually rescuing him for a variety of reasons, including getting back his ship, the Black Pearl (which is apparently the sea-going equivalent of the Millenium Falcon), and getting his Piece of Eight, one of nine magical macguffiny things held by the Pirate Lords, which are needed to do something that starts off being really impressive, only to ultimately have no consequence on the narrative.
What, no gasp of surprise? I see you are familiar with the franchise.
So, while the heroes are off doing weird stuff in the apparent netherworlds, Evil Capitalist Guy is hanging people in order to get them to sing the magical pirate song. (I’m serious.) (Honestly, it’s the opening scene, and it’s one of the more interesting bits in the movie.) ECG still has Davey Jones’s heart, which he uses to force Davey to eliminate all the pirates in the world; pirates having become the symbol for all that is good and pure and free and sort of skeezy, this is apparently a bad thing.
Lots of plot follows. Betrayals that don’t make any sense, leading to reversals that make even less sense, with supposedly smart people doing really stupid things (Chow Yun Fat. Poor Chow Yun Fat), and every few minutes, another bit of plot thrown into the pile, until you get the suspicion that the script wasn’t so much written as it was recorded during a late night Telephone marathon.
There are some really great setpieces, and the movie managed to surprise me more than a few times–Sparrow in Davey Jones’ Locker was bizarre, and I did not expect the ending–but, just like the second film, the material linking those setpieces is haphazard at best. Too many characters, too little sense of why anyone is doing anything, and, inevitably, too many conclusions that sputter and fume when they should be blowing your mind. There is the glimmer of a good movie in here someplace; everything looks great, and I respect every one involved with at least trying to do something new, but that doesn’t make this a great movie, or even a good one. It’s a slog, and it’s an infuriating waste of talent.
Oh, Keith Richards is so totally not an actor. But he’s still sort of fun to see.