In his war against the world’s pirates, dastardly Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company has a special weapon: none other than Ol’ Squidface himself, Davy Jones (Nighy).
Beckett has the crustaceous captain’s heart under lock and key, and so controls the fearsome ghost ship The Flying Dutchman. Helmed by Admiral Norrington (Jack Davenport), it is tearing the Jolly Roger to shreds.
Without the help of corsair extraordinaire Jack Sparrow (Depp), it could mean the end for the ocean-going criminal fraternity. Unfortunately, Jack is currently going schizo at the bottom of Davy Jones’ Locker (location: World’s End) after being grabbed by the Kraken.
To effect his release, Jack’s ex-enemy Barbossa (Rush), plucky poshbuckler Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) and voodoo queen Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) take the Black Pearl to Singapore, stronghold of the pirate lord Sao Feng (Chow).
They need Sao Feng’s charts to get to World’s End. They might also like their bedraggled friend Will Turner (Bloom) back.
Deals are done and the rescue mission is – thanks in no small part to an army of stone crabs - a success.
But with Beckett’s scurvy navy on the warpath, the future of all cutthroats lies with the Brethren Court - a meeting of the world’s nine foremost pirates. Gathering at Shipwreck Cove is the easy part. Agreeing on a course of action... well that be a different matter, me hearties.
Coming in at a bladder-wracking 168 minutes, At World’s End is a genuine leviathan. Only the poxiest landlubber could complain of being short-changed at the spectacle level.
The special effects and production values hit the eye like a monkey from a cannon, from the aforementioned crabs through the anthropologic aquarium of The Flying Dutchman to the storming, swirling, all-guns-blazing finale.
Notable exceptions would be mad Jack's tatty-looking pair of mini-mes, and the giant goddess Calypso who looks like a castaway from Ghostbusters.
Since this is, supposedly, the end of the Pirates journey, director Verbinski and writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are right to tie up loose ends - but not to drown everyone in a sea of plot.
It’s nice to see the loyalties of Norrington and Will’s dad Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) asserted, and ‘Keef’ Richards finally makes his much-anticipated bow as Jack’s dad Captain Teague, who looks after both the pirate code... and Jack’s mum... sort of.
Regrettably, and despite Depp’s continuing efforts, the humour is a trifle forced (a touch of spyglass envy is, however, always good for a hearty “ahaarr”).
And the plot is so overstuffed with bluffs, bargains, double-backs and betrayals that you won't know your mizzen from your mainbrace.
The ship has sailed, then. But avast ye good: as At World’s End plunders riches beyond Blackbeard’s wildest dreams, no man should rightly feel hornswaggled.