Chris’s review published on Letterboxd:
Funny to think that I used to actively dislike At World's End seeing as my admiration for it has only increased over time. It is undoubtedly overstuffed and ponderous, and yet it is filled with some of the most creative blockbuster filmmaking of the modern era. I'm genuinely astonished that a film this wildly ambitious, enthusiastically weird and dense with mythology was once the most expensive of all time. The fact that Disney (who now churn out lifeless remakes, bland MCU movies and pointless Star Wars entries) were happy to bankroll it is absolutely hilarious.
Even with the ridiculously intricate plotting there is so much here that has me enthralled. The sensational visuals, the CGI that still looks fantastic, Hans Zimmer's superb score, the memorable dialogue and the interesting thematic undercurrent that contemplates how the pirates way of life is fading away as more of the map gets explored. There's adventure, action, comedy, darkness, heartbreak, romance, character growth and a hefty dose of surrealism. It's bordering on being an absolute mess at times, but it's honestly refreshing to see a film of this scale so tonal flexible and willing to embrace all of its differing aspects.
The lead characters have clear motivations outside of the overarching narrative and Gore Verbinski does well to give all of the massive cast a chance to shine. Johnny Depp is still great fun as Jack Sparrow, the ragtag crew are likeable, Barbosa makes a welcomed return, Davy Jones has more depth, and both Will and Elizabeth have satisfying arcs. I also just really like spending time in this world, all the stuff with the pirate lords and the lore that surrounds them fascinates me. Then you have the climactic maelstrom sequence which is simply jaw-dropping and may well be one of the most effectively orchestrated climaxes of recent cinema, not only in how impressive a spectacle it is but how well it is able to tie up any loose threads and provide conclusions that feel natural.
The series should have stopped here.