When the first Pirates of the Caribbean film was released in 2003, I was more than a little leery. Here was a film based on a Disneyland ride. The Country Bears sucked and that was my favourite attraction when I visited the park as a wee lad. How could Pirates be any better? With no expectations, I was blown away by the sheer fun and exuberance of Gore Verbinski’s take on the ride. Buoyed by a masterful performance by Johnny Depp and lots of swashbuckling and chuckling, The Curse of the Black Pearl brought back memories of the first time I saw the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars.
What was a pleasant surprise the first time, the follow-up had big-time expectations. And because of that I have to say I feel a little left down after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It’s still a lot of fun, has lots of action and adds some depth to the overall story, but it’s also bloated and ends far too suddenly.
Lovebirds Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are set to be married. However because they helped Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) escape whence last we saw them, a hanging is now imminent. Meanwhile, Jack has a debt of his own to pay and Davey Jones (Bill Nighy) is the repo man out to take his life for an eternity of swabbing the deck and fighting aboard his supernatural schooner The Flying Dutchman. The trio find themselves fighting on the same side once again as they look to even their debts with both the law and the laws of nature.
Dead Man’s Chest is a big adventure that actually feels like a high-seas version of 24. Even with a running time of 150 minutes, it’s too big to fit in one movie. And what do you know – it’s not just one movie. Taking a page out of The Matrix: Reloaded, Dead Man’s Chest comes to an abrupt halt leading into the second sequel due out next summer. While I don’t mind a good cliffhanger, the film should stand on its own. Look at Star Wars or Lord of the Rings – each part makes up one epic whole, but they also stand on their own. Dead Man’s Chest does not. Nothing is resolved, nor are there any attempts to resolve them here. All is left in the air for next time. Good thing I was sucked into much of the rest of the film to stoke myself up for the assumed conclusion.
Depp once again stands out as the eccentric effeminate Captain Jack. The sober drunk, Jack lacks logic and a heart and a conscience, but somehow he always manages to get what he wants. His misadventures, shady glances and dainty hand gestures lead to laughs and chuckles. The first film introduced the world to Jack Sparrow and because he felt so fresh, he didn’t need a lot of character development. But with one film under his belt, Jack starts to evolve in Dead Man’s Chest. It’s not just gold that makes him tick. He, in fact, does have a brain and a conscience – even though it’s debatable whether he knows it or not.
Dead Man’s Chest sticks to the first film’s formula of mixing physical comedy with special-effects laden supernatural action. Davey Jones and his crew are equally spectacular when compared to the skeletal pirates of The Curse of the Black Pearl. Crustation poltergeists, the Flying Dutchman is like the Hell of the Ocean and Davey Jones is the Devil incarnate.
Despite all the action and comedy, I felt at several points that Dead Man’s Chest becomes bogged down. With so many threads happening at different times, there are prolonged periods where any combination of Jack, Elizabeth and Will are off screen doing their thing. This leads to a loss of momentum for individual subplots, which never come together until the end. It ends up bringing the entire film down a notch as it feels as though this big summer movie became something a little too big.
This time out there were no surprises. Therefore Dead Man’s Chest is predictably not as good as it predecessor. That being said, Curse of the Black Pearl is a classic and Dead Man’s Chest is still pretty darned entertaining.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Gallery
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Trailer