According to the prologue to this Pirates, the villains are the ones who suspend habeas corpus and convict without evidence. Someone alert the Bush administration. Although some of the characters have claws, this is the last time the movie will have teeth, and it is just beginning.

A nine-or-ten bags of popcorn movie, the extensive At World’s End suffers from the same stuffed plotulence as Dead Man’s Chest. It’s tough to fault a movie for being complex, especially since that complexity is the one genuinely interesting element for much of this double-header. Unfortunately, complexity cannot make us invest in whether Davy Jones will reunite with his love Calypso or whether Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner will ever get over each other and get busy.

The movie is a triumph of Hollywood visual effects and art direction. The whimsy of this world is not only inspired by Terry Gilliam, a ship sailing an ocean of stars and a world upended are deliberate lifts from Baron Munchausen. Having exhausted most of the great gags from the ride, At World’s End seems to have less humor than its predecessors. Still, those fantastic visual effects. ILM is finally out of my doghouse. Davy Jones is a true marvel, and undoubtedly this sumptuous fantasy is filled with the sort of invisible effects that I wasn’t supposed to notice, and didn’t.

One visual effect that was surely not the work of some wizard at a compositing station was the face of Keith Richards. Writers Rossio and Elliot show admirable restraint in the cameo from Richards. I remember listening to an interview where they said that was one of their great challenges. You have Keith Richards as Père Sparrow — now what should he do? They did not opt for a swagger-off, thankfully, and chose to integrate him nicely into the plot.

As for Jack Sparrow himself, the character need not chase eternal life. He will already go down in the cultural annals even without the dead weight of these sequels. This jaunt into the avant garde (what was up with the peanut?) was a noble effort to make him weirder and less explicable. But wacky Jack he will always be in the hearts and minds of small children, and the small child inside each adult.