Who allowed this mess of a film to leave the editing room? Rather, who let production begin with that hodgepodge of a script? The Curse of the Black Pearl offered two hours of fairly fast-paced fun and clever one-liners, and though not quite as strong, Dead Man's Chest maintained the tone of the original. At World's End offers very little of either. While both previous PotC films enjoyed employing various plot twists, this film becomes bogged down by the complications it tries to throw at the audience, which are downright confusing at times. And ultimately many of the plots end up not mattering very much.
After two films, Johnny Depp has become complacent in Jack Sparrow's skin. While he still delivers a zinging line or two, Jack has lost some of his sparkle. Initially I did enjoy Jack's more jaded persona, but no interesting subplots emerge from his change in demeanor. The adventures in Dead Man's Chest have pleasantly made Will a bit darker, adding a little spice to a white-bread character. But the film really belongs to Keira Knightley. Over the course of the three films, Elizabeth has progressed from being a passive damsel in distress to a confident, assertive leader. Unfortunately, Depp and Knightley's sparking chemistry is absent from this installment as they only exchange a handful of lines. Instead, the writers attempt to reignite Will and Elizabeth's flagging relationship to contrived though fairly satisfactory ends.
As far as supporting characters, Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbossa but isn't nearly as enjoyable due to his switch to the hero side of things. Davy Jones (voice of Bill Nighy) also returns as less menacing and less of a villain. Newcomer Chow Yun-Fat attempts to fill Rush's campy villain role and does his fair amount of scenery chewing. Tom Hollander gives a nice performance as the East India Company's Beckett, but the audience never considers that he will best Jack. Stellan Skarsgård again does some nice work as Bootstrap Bill, earning sympathy from the audience and keeping his scenes with Orlando Bloom from becoming too schmaltzy.
This film contains some interesting visual images pertaining to its portrayal of women. For the majority of the film, Elizabeth minimizes her feminine appearance by keeping her hair under a hat or in a braid. Even though Sao Feng dresses her in a gown, Elizabeth first struck me as looking really feminine when she lets her hair down after she has become Pirate King and is motivating the crew of The Black Pearl to lead the brethren into battle. Indeed she has defined her own femininity rather than allowing society (the corset in The Curse of the Black Pearl) or men (Sao Feng) to define her femininity for her. Though Elizabeth only seems to gain power when men give it to her (Sao Feng makes her captain, Jack's vote make her Pirate King), she embraces that power and does not rely on men to employ it. I do wish that there had been a scene at the end of the film that confirmed whether she remained captain of Sao Feng's ship.
I cannot decide if the Calypso storyline inadvertently hints at racism. The brethren stripped Calypso of her power and bound her to human form: a Black woman human form. When Calypso's powers are unbound she retains her physical appearance — except she gets bigger — so perhaps she would possess that form as a god as well. However, even after she regains her powers, she remains bound by ropes and only escapes by obliterating her human form and, um, turning into a bunch of crabs. (Yes, I thought to myself, "Hee! She has crabs," when that happened. Because I'm 12.) While the fact that a Black actress portrays a god in the film pleases me, that final image of Calypso suggests that she did not have any power when she resembled a Black woman.
Despite its sluggish initial half hour, I recommend Dead Man's Chest because the latter half of the film delivers the same goods as The Curse of the Black Pearl. I cannot do the same for At World's End, which never manages to be as funny, exciting, or spectacular. The problem with multiple sequel, big budget films such as PotC is that the producers feel compelled to make each succeeding film bigger and crammed with more special effects. With At World's End, PotC has grown big to the point that it has become unwieldy.