About seven hours into Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, someone stuffs a monkey into a cannon, lights the fuse and sends it shooting across the deck to crash into another character. That monkey is like us, the audience -- bruised, confused and unsure what it did to deserve this punishment. We have to endure a hurricane of hooey, a hydra-headed story with more subplots and pointless reversals than a Raymond Chandler tale and more doodad MacGuffins -- a compass that points to this, a key that unlocks that -- than even a parody could endure, all of which leads to a sort of white noise of confusion where a plot should be. Even if that monkey-cannon were pointed at my head, I couldn't explain to you why, for example, the key pirates from the previous two films are now introduced to us as 'pirate lords' -- leaders of some kind of pirate's union, which, judging by Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) does not offer dental. It's their lordship, and what that means for pirates everywhere, that this trilogy capper is supposedly about.

You'll remember that at the end of the last film, Dead Man's Chest, Depp's swishy swashbuckler was betrayed by Keira Knightley's colonial babe Elizabeth Swann, left manacled to the deck of his ship as it was being eaten by a steroid-squid, in the hopes that a sticky pirate curse would drown with him and his ship. The audience wasn't fooled -- even the most casual moviegoer knew Depp would be returning for part three -- but films that include an easy-breezy transition between life and afterlife often find themselves having to paddle twice as hard to get dramatic tension going, which is one of the problems that most plagues At World's End. After all, if no one can really die, what's the worst thing that can happen? (One of the reasons I've never bothered to read a comic book in my life, by the way) Somewhere around the thirty-minute mark of this one, we're re-introduced to Captain Jack, who is stuck in some kind of Looney Tunes purgatory, commanding a ship sitting in the middle of a desert, and crewed only by multiple Jack Sparrows.