FILM: Pirates of the Caribbean 3

FILM: Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End CERTIFICATE: 12a RUNNING TIME: 168 mins VENUE: Palace Cinema. RATING: 6/10

EVERYONE'S favourite pirate, Jack Sparrow, is back in the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, raking in more big bucks at the box office and again proving to be a merchandising goldmine.

The first film surpassed all expectations back in 2003 and became a huge hit, thanks to a cracking adventure story and a tour-de-force performance from Johnny Depp, who resurrected the swashbuckling genre with his flamboyant gesturing and mad rolling eyes.

Pirates 3 was shot back-to-back with the second film (Dead Man's Chest) and is a direct continuation of the story which ended with the monstrous Kraken dragging Captain Sparrow and his ship under the ocean to Davy Jones's Locker, the resting place for drowned sailors.

The narrative picks up with the nasty Lord Beckett extending the power of the East India Trading Company and having mass hangings of anyone connected to pirates.

The initial plot centred on Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and their efforts to bring together the nine Pirate Lords who can form an alliance against Beckett.

Sparrow is one of the nine and they set off to rescue him from the Locker where he has been stranded in limbo, going even more crazy than usual.

With all the principal actors in place and director Gore Verbinski still at the helm, this was always going to be another box-office hit.

As has been the case recently (the lame Spiderman 3 still fresh in the memory) the risk is a movie-by-numbers where as long as the characters can have toys made from them and scenes are easily transferable to a theme-ride, everyone at the studio is happy.

Pirates 3 is just about entertaining enough to sit through, but the story is confusing with countless double-crosses and shifting allegiances which left me never knowing who to cheer for.

In the end I just supported the old pirate crew (mainly because of Mackenzie Crook best known as Gareth from The Office) as they seemed the most rounded bunch on show. The leads (with the exception of Captain Barbossa who is good) are reduced to cartoon characters who make lots of noise but are vacuous otherwise.

Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom both look the part but can't act — her inspirational rallying speech prior to battle is anything but, and their romantic scenes together cringe-inducing.

Much more of a disappointment is Johnny Depp whose Jack Sparrow is little more than a comic-relief, supporting role.

He doesn't show up for over half an hour and when he does, he spends his time snarling and posturing into the camera like a camp, live-action version of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

Depp is blameless as he is given nothing to do and can only go through the motions but it's a shame to see him wasted.

Supposedly filming was started without a completed script and the weakness of the dialogue and the storyline becomes more apparent as the near three-hour running time drags on.

The visuals are fantastic as expected and there are welcome appearances from Chow Yun-Fat as one of the Pirate Lords, and Keith Richards who is perfectly cast as Sparrow's father.

Ultimately the film is still a letdown though — the final showdown between Beckett's flagship and the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman is a non-event (like when you used to sit up all night for the Tyson fight which lasted less than a minute) and the repetitive swordplay and inane plot contrivances simply become boring by the end.

Overall: 6/10

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