(Insert Pirate Lingo Joke Here)

As we were driving through the Bonneville Salt Flats a couple of weeks ago, I was pondering how it looked like an alien landscape, and what a great setting it would be for a science-fiction movie. Today we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End and, lo and behold, Captain Jack Sparrow's own private hell is the Bonneville Salt Flats. Utah as a land of eternal torment and punishment - I don't think that's too far off. It's not actually hell, of course - as Pirates fans will recall, at the end of Dead Man's Chest, Jack was being taken to Davy Jones's Locker. I find an amusing irony in Utah, quite thoroughly land-locked, being used as the final resting place of doomed sailors.

A lot of critics are blasting Pirates 3 for the same reason they did Pirates 2 - it's too complex, they whine, there's too many characters and too much going on. As if complexity in narrative is a bad thing. If you can follow Lost or Heroes, you shouldn't have much trouble with this. I mean, it's not exactly Finnegans Wake we're talking about here. Despite the critics' whining, the plot and characters can really be summed up in a nutshell - Johnny Depp is gay pirate, Orlando Bloom is just a few clicks shy of having all the personality of a Ken doll, there's a villain in a powdered wig and a villain who looks like the Admiral's Combination Platter at Red Lobster with a seriously creepy blowhole on the side of his face, Chow Yun Fat and Geoffrey Rush take turns chewing the scenery, and all sixty pounds of Keira Knightley are given the utterly bizarre opportunity to deliver what is perhaps the least rousing St. Crispian's Day speech in the history of cinema. There's swordfights and raking broadsides and explosions and the Asshole Math Professor from Good Will Hunting dressed in a costume made of aquarium decorations and the long-awaited cameo by the corpse of Keith Richards and everybody double-crosses everybody else at least once.

Okay, I'll admit it's a little busy. It does suffer a bit from Powdered Wig Syndrome, wherein the viewer's ability to keep the characters straight is inversely proportional to the number of characters in cravats and powdered wigs. But really, it's not nearly as complicated as many critics are making it sound. It's a little overlong - just like its predecessor, it could easily have been trimmed by a good half-hour - but that's not the same thing as being too complicated. Critics complain endlessly about summer blockbusters that have no plot, and then when they're presented with one that does, it's too complicated.

I can't say this movie blew me away, and the original Pirates is still far-and-away the best of the lot, but there's a lot to like here. There's a scene that shows us what Being John Malkovich would have looked like if it were a pirate movie, first off. And while there's plenty of action, it's not an overload and it's rarely the same old predictable stuff - one of the major early set-pieces involves the characters' attempt to capsize a ship they're on.

And in the end, the real question is this - how can you possibly hate a movie that features Keith Richards as a guitar-playing pirate?