What a big, glorious, beautiful mess this movie is! It's like everything that was done in the first two movies had to be done again, only this time BIGGER, with MORE EXPLOSIONS, and 30% MORE JOHNNY DEPP!
Don't even try to understand what is happening--the story careens from one set up to the next with little exposition or narrative logic. Captain Jack Sparrow has been swallowed by the Kraken, and everybody else wants to get him. Or to defeat the East India Company. Or something. It's not easy to tell. We see all our favorite characters, plus more of the Undead Monkey Jack, providing most of the comic relief.
This last chapter is darker than the first two, and I mean that literally. The first 30 minutes are so gloomy that it's hard to see all the stuff that has been stuffed into each frame. Everyone appears in half shadow all the time--all the better for the explosions I guess. And things do blow up. Lots of bodies go flying, structures fall down, but it's hard to know or care what is happening, but that's okay, because later we see all the characters have made it to the next bit, where they try to go rescue Captain Jack.
And here's where those of us who wanted more Johnny Depp get more Johnny Depp. Captain Jack has (don't ask how) been transported to a white sand desert with the Black Pearl. Both have survived being eaten by the Kraken (I told you not to ask) and Jack is hallucinating multiple versions of himself as his own crew. Mild hilarity ensues, and everyone ends up rescuing everyone else. And holding pistols on each other. And double-crossing each other. And then blowing up more stuff.
Really, it's amazing that any of these ships stay afloat, with all the shooting and crashing and running aground they do. Tia Dalma turns out to be 40 feet tall and made all of crabs, Davy Jones turns out to be a non-performing employee who must be replaced, and for some reason, the job description requires radical surgery. Sure, in Pirates 2, the reason Davy Jones put his heart in a chest was because he was disappointed in love and couldn't bear the pain--but now that appears to be a required qualification for commanding the Flying Dutchman. Go figure.
Frankly, there was just too much going on to get invested in any of it. [Spoilers ho! So, keep a weather eye on the horizon!] Elizabeth's father, the criminally underused Jonathan Pryce, turns up dead, without any reason why he was even in this episode. Elizabeth's would-be fiance, Commodore Norrington--who got to demonstrate his comic chops in the second movie--is back to wearing white wigs and making anti-pirate decisions, so he ends up dead too. Elizabeth and Will finally get married, but then Will gets stabbed with the sword he made back in the first movie, and has to cut his heart out and take over the Flying Dutchman.
Only after all the noisy and pointless fighting do we get the kind of moments that make us care about these characters: Will and his father have a quiet moment together; Will and Elizabeth have to separate for 10 years; and after 10 years, we see Will sailing back to meet his wife and their 9 year old child.
Pirates 4? Of course there will be one--this one has made a pile of loot, and the franchise isn't dead yet. Captain Jack Sparrow has lost his ship to Barbossa again, but he's stolen Barbossa's map and is off to find the Fountain of Youth. The whole Will/Elizabeth story has been wrapped up and now only Johnny Depp and Geoffry Rush have to be signed on for another installment. I hope only that any fourth movie goes back to having a smaller and less cluttered plot, with fewer explosions and more character interaction.
One can always dream.