First things first, you must stay until the end of credits for a scene which truly ends the movie proper, in a bittersweet manner, full of love and fulfilled promises, especially after you've experienced the double, triple, quadruple crossings in Pirates 2 which carried over onto this final chapter. If you want to know this ending because you were impatient in leaving the theatres after 168 minutes, scroll down to the last spoiler-marked paragraph.
I can't help but compare this trilogy to that of the Wachowski Brother's Matrix movies, only in the way the two sequels are presented in structure. Like Reloaded, Pirates Dead Man's Chest introduced new depth into the established mythos of the standalone original, which made some folks wonder why as they got confused with new characters, new motivations, and plenty of mumbo jumbo. Making things worse, it ended with a cliffhanger of supposed death (you don't really think they'd kill him off do you?) leading directly into the events of the concluding part three.
Like Revolutions, Pirates At World's End wastes no time and dives right into the rescue mission to save the (audience's) beloved Jack Sparrow (come to think of it, the original Star Wars trilogy is like that too, but I digress), who is stuck in a similar limbo where nothing works. And there are plenty of scenes in this movie which played on Depp's character popularity, which made you wonder just what the point is, if not just to elicit some cheap laughs which sometimes don't work.
And with the much touted, expensive sets of Singapore, you wonder what's the point too. During Pirates Dead Man's Chest, there was a teaser of sorts about Singapore being a locale in the Pirates mythos, after being mentioned a number of times in the franchise thus far. And the hype continued with news about the sets, and the casting coup of Chow Yun-Fat as a pirate from Singapore. OK, some historical liberties were taken, but when presented, it really was much ado about nothing. You get to see sets (artificially done of course), not locales, and much of it is at night, so "Singapore" was relegated to what can be deemed like a bad backlot set with poor lighting. Lasting 20 minutes, and given you can't see much, made you yearn for the pirates to hit the high seas, pronto!
As much as Singapore the locale was wasted, Chow was wasted too, having being the last minute merovingian-like character added to the concluding trilogy whose value is only a map, some men, and a junk. But the lucky bastard got to snog Keira Knightley and I'm jealous. Anyway the shady wheelings and dealings continue, between characters, and with the switching of allegiances which you'll come close to losing, almost. It's like a movie version of Survivor, and the best way to survive this is to think through and focus, while you're watching, the individual character motivation and their objective, which brings on some working of the noodle fun.
Where we last left our jolly crew, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is gone, and the relationship between Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is on the rocks because the latter was caught snogging Sparrow by the former, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is brought back to life, while Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) is collaborating with the East India Company, much against his wishes, assisting them in making all pirates see the end of days. Holding the key to save Jack is Chow's Captain Sao Feng of Singapore, as new alliances, betrayals and businesses are formed.
Fans of either Bloom or Depp will find their idols absent for significant portions during the movie's first half especially, while the spotlight is set on Knightley, and the introduction of new elements in the Pirate's lore, law and the theme of love. In particular, this movie contrasts quite clearly the love between Turner and Swann, and that of Davy Jones and his, though there are cringeworthy moments in the former's, especially during the climatic battle hinted at in the trailers. Fatherly love too was touched upon briefly for all our 3 main characters, with the highlight on Keith Richard's short appearance as Sparrow senior, which clearly felt like it's added and created just for him.
The action bits were great, and though there are adequate fight scenes in between the calm scheming of the high seas, nothing beats the climatic fight at the end where everything comes together and issues get resolved with violence. There are times though that you wonder just how much damage the ships like the Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman can sustain, with so much splinters and chunks of wood flying, before they sink. And like all climatic fights in ending trilogy chapters, At World's End fell back to formulaic rousing of the troops scene with cheesy dialogue, but perhaps for the better, forgotten about all the others in spite of the scale prepared. The CGI was undeniably effective in making the battle work, with fights on a number of fronts properly done to keep the adrenaline high.
Pirates 3 is an intertwined sequel which I think you'll either love or hate depending on how you reacted to Pirates 2. For me, I'm swashbuckling towards liking it. It's not without flaws, but definitely one of the better two-part movies around - I guess the scriptwriters must had racked their brains with so much going on in so little time, and pulling it off actually. A satisfying conclusion.
MAJOR SPOILER FOR END EASTER EGG SCENE
After the credits roll, we fast forward to 10 years later. Elizabeth Swann and a boy (Turner Jr most probably) of about 10 years old (yes they actually shagged you know? Not just wear boots LOL) journey to the edge of a cliff, and look out into the horizon. The sun is peeking out, and in a magical flash, a ship appears.... it's The Flying Dutchman, and on its mast, is Will Turner the Captain, looking on.
I liked this scene, as mentioned, because it's one of love and hope, and the fulfillment of promises. Being the cursed captain of The Flying Dutchman, Turner is condemned to coming ashore only once in 10 years, and it is only during this time, that he can meet up with his love, and now a new addition to the family. And she was found waiting for him, unlike that which Davy Jones and Calypso experienced, where the latter strayed. Hip Hooray.
END MAJOR SPOILER