The one moment of pure unexpected joy I felt during At World’s End was when the embassies from the pirate fleet and East India navy meet each other on the narrow atoll before the sea battle.
Suddenly a fuzzy electric guitar stabs the air plucking a near duplication of Frank’s theme from Once Upon a Time in the West and is immediately joined by an imitation of Harmonica’s theme, replicating the music of the final showdown in Leone’s film (listen to Zimmer’s “Parlay” here). Dutifully, the camera focuses on the backs of boots and fronts of faces before the six main characters enter negotiations.
Though in some ways the worst of the trilogy, this film moreso than the first two is a celebration of influence across genre, heralded boldly by a sequence of the most Daliesque imagery since, well, X-Men 3.
For a director that, like Alfonso Cuaron, has been systematically mastering genre after genre, it’s about time he exploited his most playful franchise for all its intergeneric worth.