Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is turning ten years old this year, just around the time the fifth entry, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is released in theatres. At World’s End was released Memorial Day weekend of 2007, ten months after the second installment, Dead Man’s Chest, opened in 2006 (breaking Spider-Man‘s opening weekend record with a haul of $135.6 million). At World’s End made a shitload of money, but ultimately didn’t come close to making as much as its predecessor ($309 million vs. $423 million, respectively). One could argue audiences had a bit of “pirate fatigue.”
I’d even bet that those involved with the movie were suffering from the same fatigue and it caused them to go a little bonkers. The proof is in the pudding: there are so many What The Fuck moments in this movie that, at a certain point, you begin to think, “Yeah, they’re intentionally fucking with us now.”
Armed with a production budget of (reportedly) $300 million and an already locked-in fan base, director Gore Verbinski could essentially do whatever he wanted. And that he did. In his defense, screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio created such a convoluted storyline in the second film to carry over into the third that, in certain scenes, Verbinski had no other alternative but to take the bonkers route. (And apparently, rumor has it that production began without a finished script.)
At World’s End was supposed to wrap up the series (but of course, Hollywood’s a business and it couldn’t just end there). The fact that it was supposed to be the final installment — at least for the original crew — was probably another reason for Verbinski to throw caution to the wind and say, “Fuck it, we’ve got nothing to lose.” I’m going to detail a few of my favorite We’ve-Got-Nothing-To-Lose-Moments.
We Open With A Mass Hanging
Important to note: right before this mass-hanging scene shown above, we have the famous Disney logo and theme. So it’s like, ooh there’s the Disney logo and our conditioned brains are thinking, here comes some quality family entertainment and then BOOM. We open with a shot of a noose. Just kidding on that family entertainment stuff, kids.
But this is supposed to be a family-friendly movie. Like, there’s no arguing that. And yet here we are with this opening scene that continues on with shots of dangling feet, twitching until there’s no more twitch left. The scene then becomes Les Mis-like when a boy (yes, a boy, a mere child) makes his way to his noose and he begins to sing. The rest of crowd joins in on this somber tune, “Hoist the Colours.” But, apparently, the hangman isn’t much a fan of this song. They’re all hanged anyway. Cut to title and there we have our beginning for this big-budget, supposedly-good-time-popcorn-movie.
(Favorite part of this scene? “Lord Beckett! They’ve… started to sing… sir.” (As if he can’t hear the SUPER loud chorus surrounding him.) Beckett gives a little surly smirk, like he knows something we don’t, and says, “Finally.” No further explanation. Hilarious.)
The Dick Jokes and Euphemisms
They really run with the dick jokes. And it’s not like just a one time thing. It’s more than just the scene above (which features Jack outdoing Barbosa’s telescope after a few scenes earlier in which Jack’s first telescope wasn’t much to brag about). Slipping one dick joke into a big-budget Disney movie wouldn’t be that big of a deal — in fact, it’s been done before. But, as said, we have more, using Jack’s sword as a stand-in.
But the best dick-related part of the movie has to be a scene toward the end, which is basically an entire euphemism for penis.
“My vessel is huge-ish…” “It’s much larger up close.” “Jack, you promised to take us for a ride!” I’d love to know if the genesis of this scene resulted from Depp and Verbinski getting drunk together one night and saying, “Hey, tomorrow we shoot the scene on the dock, right? Want to see how many ways we can refer to Jack’s penis without having to say penis?” (I have to admit, this whole sequence really went over my head ten years ago.)
The Goat (and the Rest of Jack’s Locker Scene)
Speaking of things that kind of passed by me ten years ago… Uh, how about this shit with the goat in the Davy Jones’ Locker scene? Watching it again recently, I was like, wait. This was really in the movie? Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but is some casual bestiality being implied here? Hey, Jack, whatever floats your boat.
The Davy Jones’ Locker scene is also notable because it’s the first time in the film that we see the Pirates series’ most popular character, Jack Sparrow. And it arrives at the 33rd minute mark. That’s right, we don’t see the dude that takes center stage on all of the posters and marketing material at all until a half hour in. And the stuff with the goat isn’t the only weird thing going on here: there are multiple Jack Sparrows roaming about. I’d say maybe fifty of them in all, arguing with each other. It’s reminiscent of, if not a direct reference to, this early Buster Keaton short, in which Keaton plays all of the characters:
The Davy Jones’ Locker scene is certainly a head-scratcher, if nothing else. It’s wonderfully bizarre and, again, hard to believe that it managed to stay in this big budget Disney movie.
Bringing In The Outside Commentary
Ever since the first movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, was released in 2003, Keith Richards’ name was brought up whenever someone was describing Johnny Depp’s performance as Jack. The slurring, the flamboyant movements — the comparisons were only heightened after the release of Dead Man’s Chest when Depp’s performance arguably upped the level of Richards and became even more hammy. And in At World’s End, the filmmakers mashed story and reality together and brought Richards in to play Jack’s father. The role wasn’t hugely important, it was simply a cameo — but a cameo that doesn’t really make much sense. However, it didn’t matter to the filmmakers because the cameo, the nod to the outside world, was like jerking themselves off on the success and zeitgeist of the franchise they created. They said to themselves, “This will be fun for the audience, who gives a shit if it isn’t logical (which seems to be the motto for much of the movie’s choices)?” It was also a risk. It could take the audience out of the movie by reminding them of the outside world, reminding them that they are indeed watching a movie. Did the addition of Richards work? Of course it did. Even the younger people of the audience, who have no inkling of Richards’ impact or even who the Rolling Stones are, enjoyed his presence because they got to see Jack’s dad. It was a good move, risks and all.
It’s Nearly Three Fucking Hours Long
I have the same expression ^^^ every time I am reminded of the 2 hour and 50 minute runtime. Sitting through something that long is asking an ADHD summer movie audience a lot — and there’s plenty of stuff that could feasibly be cut without taking away from the overall product! And yet, it’s in there. Again, I have to admire the audacity.
This High Pitched Voice Dude
But it’s fun as hell.
At the end of the day, this is a love letter to adventure movies. It’s supposed to be fun, and it is. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously, which makes some scenes, like the opening, feel weird and out of place. But what can you do? That opening feels weird more because of its darkness, rather than its seriousness. Because even your best and most fun adventure movies need to have some seriousness — there needs to be that moment of inspiration. At World’s End has that, when our characters are at their lowest point and a rousing speech is needed to rev them up again. Sure, it may be a bit hokey and some people may be stifling a laugh during this, but with Hans Zimmer’s score, I am brave enough to admit that I get a little bit of a chill if I’m in the right mood watching this scene:
But it’s the from the film’s bonkers-ness where the fun comes. For example, look at this scene below. It’s a wedding in the middle of the biggest action set-piece of the movie. It’s genius.
The Pirates of the Caribbean series was a bit off-kilter from the start, and that’s what drew people to the franchise. Think about it: this was 2007. This was pre-Marvel universe, pre-The Dark Knight, pre-anything DC/Zack Snyder. The landscape was different. The first Transformers hadn’t even come out yet (that would be about a month later, fourth of July weekend 2007). Spider-Man 3 and a Fantastic Four sequel (that no one saw) were really the only two superhero movies that came out that year, so Pirates was treated like a superhero movie, too. But it offered a respite — it was a superhero movie without the spandex, with its own brand of quirky humor and action. From 2006-2007, it was of the moment. Whether that “moment” can make a comeback this year with Dead Men Tell No Tales, remains to be seen (it certainly didn’t with the fourth movie, On Stranger Tides). But even if it doesn’t, we’ll always have 2007 to look back on.