Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Gibbs: "The wind's on our side, boys! That's all we need!"

Elizabeth: "HOIST THE COLORS!"

I'm the maniac whose favorite Pirates of the Caribbean movie is At World's End, a grandiose Hollywood epic the likes of which has yet to be matched since its release. Gore Verbinski delivers more than just coherent and engaging large-scale plot machinations. He slides fluidly between tragic, operatic, and comedic tones while also painting his canvas with sandy beach whites, stormy greys, barnacle greens, and rum-filtered amber hues.

Hans Zimmer composes arguably his best score to date. "Hoist the Colours" (written by scribes Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio) is sung by several characters and reprised in various rousing permutations throughout the picture. Its lyrics essentially describe the backstory between Calypso and the Brethren Court. "Parlay" is a cue inspired by Ennio Morricone (specifically, "Man With a Harmonica") that plays during my favorite scene.

Elizabeth (King!) and Will's ultimate fates could not be more perfect, and Verbinski's camera circles around their first kiss as a newly wedded couple in a sweepingly romantic fashion. What makes this moment especially notable is that it happens while they're aboard the besieged Black Pearl, in the fight for their lives, and bolstered by a new love theme.

Jack Sparrow finds himself confounded by wacky representations of his personality and an army of crabs (!) inside a masterfully surrealist depiction of the Locker (Zimmer's music is appropriately experimental). Keith Richards' weird cameo much later on always leaves me brimming with joy.

The climactic maelstrom battle is a masterclass on how to simultaneously deliver over the top spectacle and satisfyingly resolve character arcs. It surpasses any of the much ballyhooed war sequences in The Lord of the Rings because of how well balanced the action is on both macro and micro levels.

"This is no longer your world, Jones. The immaterial has become... immaterial."

No monster or supernatural entity can hope to compete with mankind's limitless capacity for evil and conquest (the British Empire is probably history's most culpable in this regard). In the name of King and Country, Lord Cutler Beckett suspends all manner of civil liberties before ordering mass executions of anyone suspected of even the most tenuous connection to piracy. He controls the once formidable Davy Jones (whose tragic backstory is now laid bare) and uses the Flying Dutchman to tighten his grip on the seas. Tom Hollander believably plays this murderous corporate tyrant in a manner befitting many of his real world analogues: casually smug and quietly devoted to ransacking the world's treasure, while brutally wiping out any competition. Beckett is given a magnificent death scene which deserves to go down in the annals of cinema history as one of the finest ever for a villain: Repeating, "It's just... good business" and paralyzed with shock, he calmly descends the staircase of his flagship as it's blown to smithereens in glorious slow motion.

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