I enjoyed the third installment at least as much as the original and infinitely more than the second one. And yet, the most fitting adjective I can come up with to describe it is "bittersweet". I nearly started crying when Elizabeth encountered her dead father, and again when she encountered Will's deteriorating father, and I even got a little veklempt (or however it's spelled) when Norrington died; I was really starting to like him. What a waste.
And then there's the end, and while I'm certainly happy that Jack's still alive, he's pretty much back where he started at the beginning of the first movie, alone in a little boat of dubious seaworthiness. And that's not necessarily where I want him to be. Come to think of it, Barbossa's also pretty much in the same place he started at the beginning of the first movie, except not cursed (as far as we know), and while that's good on the one hand because it absolves Jack of any lingering guilt he might bear for killing him in the first movie, it also sucks. And then there's poor Will and Elizabeth; Will's not dead, and that's a good thing, and he's reunited with his father, who's no longer senile, and that's a good thing, and he and Elizabeth finally got to consummate their relationship and that's a good thing...but the rest of their situation pretty much sucks. I mean, it was all right for Calypso and Davy Jones since they were both immortal (though, it seems to me, it was a much better deal for Calypso than for Davy Jones), but unless there's some proviso that the captain of the Dutchman's girlfriend/wife gets automatic immortality (which there could be; they didn't really explain that very well) she's gonna get old and die and he's going to be eaten with regret and even moodier, and were he not so damn chivalrous all the time I would suspect that he would start neglecting his duties and start morphing into a rotting seafood buffet. In short, definitely not your traditional happy ending.
Of the three, I still think the original is the most well-made (or certainly the most well-written) and the most fun, but this one, for all its silliness, kind of plumbed some emotional depths of which the other two barely skimmed the surface. I think the first one is closer to its theme-park-attraction roots in that everything pretty much turns out okay and nobody dies except bad people and some random people that you didn't know long enough to care about, and Jack is back on his ship and Will and Elizabeth are in each other's arms and her dad is okay with that (and alive), and for all we knew at the time, they were all going to live happily ever after. Whereas this one kind of acknowledged the reality that everything doesn't necessarily turn out all right and everybody doesn't necessarily live happily ever after, and yet they may be happy enough. Even so, they managed that without losing the fanciful spirit of the original or "jumping the shark" as the colloquialism goes. And personally, I think that's quite an accomplishment.
That said, I still can't say which of the two are "better"; they each have their strengths but they don't have the same strengths. I think they complement each other. One thing I can say definitively is that the second one is the weakest of the three, that it's connective tissue with little if any stand-alone value. I think the story would be stronger if they had taken the important points out of DMC and integrated them into AWE and just had two movies. But then, they wouldn't have made as much money, would they?
And call me a dupe, a sucker, a mindless pawn, a hapless prole, she who makes Adorno roll over in his grave (though I personally think that Adorno cared more about being right than about actually reforming anything); call me what you will, but I will gladly and unhesitatingly plunk down the full price to see any movie featuring Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow because no matter what else, I know I will be entertained. I've heard whispers and rumors that Bruckheimer wants to do more, and I'm sure the folks at Disney will never pass up the opportunity to make more money (even at the expense of artistic integrity, if need be: "artistic...what now?"). I have mixed feelings about the idea of more sequels; I think that the third one resolved itself satisfactorily, and yet there's definitely potential for more stories to be told. What it comes down to, for me, is the people involved. If it has Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, of course I will plunk down my money to see it as soon as possible. If it's focusing on some of the other characters but they bring back Ted, Terry, Gore, and the same actors, I'll probably see it. If they get another director and/or writers, I'll probably wait til I can get the DVD at the library. And if they ever committed the blasphemy of hiring someone else to play Jack Sparrow, I would never see it, out of protest.
Oh, and in tangentially related news, for the past week I've been sleeping with Jack Sparrow.
You're just waiting for the other shoe to drop, aren't you? Okay...no, not really, of course.
What happened was a friend of mine gave me a Jack Sparrow pillow case, so naturally I put it on my bed immediately. It was the first time in my life I've drooled on my pillow while I was still awake. Good times...good times.