It seems that just about every weekend this month, there's a second sequel to a box office smash opening somewhere. Wait, there's no seeming, it's an actuality. So let's review -- in one word -- each film so far.
Spider-Man 3 -- great.
Shrek the Third -- OK.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End -- excessive.
Well, that wraps up my share of being nice about the trilogy-ending entry in Johnny Depp's parade of pirate pictures. There's a big hint, right at the start of this one, that's it's going to be different from its predecessors. It opens with a series of mass hangings, showing ropes going around people's necks, then cutting to their dangling feet, then seeing their bodies carted away. With the villainous Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) in charge, the victims include men, women, and... hold on, this is a Disney film. You don't think they'll pull the trap door under the feet of the cute little 10-year-old, do you? But hey, if it was good enough for Sergio Leone to have Henry Fonda blow away a moppet at the start of Once Upon a Time in the West...
And if the intro doesn't have Walt Disney melting in the freezer, wait'll you see the raunchy directions this one soon takes. You have to wonder, where exactly was Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) hiding that big gun she tries to smuggle into the pirate den of Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat).
The extremely convoluted story places her, along with Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) -- to whom she's not speaking -- along with members of the motley ghost crew (who seem not to be ghosts anymore), in Singapore, where they're attempting to pull together the "nine pirate lords" of the world in order to....
Ay, there's the rub. I sat there, watching this movie for two hours and 45 minutes, and I still don't know what the hell these "pirate lords" were planning. At one point, it looked like they were going to gang up on the ships of Lord Beckett, who had a plan to "rule the seas." But unless I nodded off -- and with the noise level of this film, that would be impossible even for the hearing-impaired -- that particular battle never happened.
Don't worry, there are plenty of battles, with swords flashing and guns firing and pieces of ships being blasted all over the place. But done up in slow motion, it all looks like the explosions at the end of the psychedelic '60s film Zabriskie Point, which at least had some nifty Pink Floyd on the soundtrack instead of a bombastic score by Hans Zimmer.
The storyline does keep drifting back, telling of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is one of the "nine." His first appearance -- make that appearances -- about a half-hour in, actually is psychedelic, what with his ship the Black Pearl sailing through the desert on the backs of a sea of "rock" crabs.
His pirate friends might be trying to save him or they might be trying to use him. But no sooner can you not figure that part out than we're all aboard ship, stuck in the doldrums, fully believing that up is down (or maybe I've got that backwards).
This I do know: the special effects budget has been upped, and good use has been made of it. But tossing in the biggest waterfall in the world ("at world's end"!!!) or a huge maelstrom in the middle of the ocean -- then having neither of them tie into the storyline -- makes no sense. Neither, of course, does a scene shot in a frigid Arctic area just so we can see a monkey shiver.
How about that Keith Richards? Yup, he's along for the ride, playing Jack Sparrow's dad, saying nothing of importance, picking out a few lovely notes on a guitar (no, that's not explained, either), then cutting out, after all of a five-minute cameo.
There's a constant nagging feeling that the story was being made up as the cameras were running. This results in a few hits and many, many misses.
Let's go back to reviewing the three second sequels.
Spider-Man 3 -- It exhausted me.
Shrek 3 -- I fell asleep.
Pirates 3 -- I wanted to fall asleep, but it was too loud.