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Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End (DVD)

Starring: Johnny Depp, his clone army, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Nighy, far too much computer generated nonsense, a very large number of crabs and very little actual piracy.

Rated: 12

Story: Captain Jack Sparrow's friends must travel beyond the world's end to return him from the land of the dead. They need him to help release the sea goddess Calypso so she can defeat the East India Company who are intent on wiping all trace of piracy from the seas.

Obviously, taking away people's right to be pirates is an affront to liberty and something to be frowned upon. Well, it is in the PoC version of history, anyway, where it's the East India Company (Boo! Hiss!) who go around murdering women and children while pirates (Yo ho! Hurrah!) do little more than drink rum in a boisterous fashion and double-cross each other.

Comments: Die Hard 4.0 is a fantastic example of both the modern action movie and of how to maintain a franchise even once its original premise has worn a little thin. Some of the stunts are pretty unlikely but they're always spectacular and never appear totally beyond the laws of physics. The story keeps things moving along swiftly, isn't over-complicated, provides just enough character development and throws up a stream of in-jokes and one-liners. It's excellent.

Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End is a fantastic example of all that can go wrong with a modern action movie and of how to kill a franchise stone dead, bury it in merchandise and then set fire to it.

After the complex and meandering story of the second film, Dead Man's Chest, there were more than enough plot threads to see this one through to a climactic conclusion. Unfortunately, the movie is stuffed full of superfluous twists, asides and reversals. They're probably there to make it all seem clever and exciting but the actual result is closer to tiresome and dull. It drags on and on as all the characters compete to make themselves unsympathetic.

All this might be forgivable if the action sequences were any good. They're not. It was as if they were given a vast budget for stunts, just in case, but then felt they had to spend it all to avoid being given less next time. People walk through a maelstrom of explosions without a scratch, perform impossible acrobatics on ropes and dance their way through extensively choreographed sword fights. Usually in a storm. At sea. Up a mast. At length.

It's hard to care after a while. There ceases to be any sense of peril once it becomes apparent that the main characters are magically invulnerable. Harry Potter can get away with it because he is magic. John McClane at least makes jumping on the back of a fighter jet look feasible. Jack Sparrow just waltzes through the impossible, shrugs and then mumbles about sea turtles or something.

That's not even the end of the problems. There's lots of forced dialogue and dubious motivation to keep the unlikely love triangle alive. The sections where Jack struggles with madness make him seem more sane than usual. The ending's not great, the film's often not that interesting to look at and nothing holds together unless you can accept that, deep down, pirates are lovable rascals really.

All in all, it's such an overblown mess that it might make more sense if they'd lost any notion of self-control whatsoever and thrown in some aliens or dancing penguins or both or even dancing alien penguins. I don't know.

It would certainly have been worth cutting out more than a third of the film, however.

Conclusion: So bad that it has blighted the memory of the other two in my head. Makes we want to go and knock a point off my rating of the second one.

Explosions: Lots.
Plot twists: Too many.
Jokes: Too few.
Length: Too long.
Dancing penguins: None (sadly).

Rating: 2/5 if you've seen the other two, else 1/5.

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