Movie Review (2): Pirates of the Caribbean: Dean Man’s Chest
By Frank H. Woodward Jul 6, 2006, 10:01 GMT
Like its predecessor, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dean Man’s Chest is full of high seas mysticism and adventure.... even more so.
If you remember when summers were about blockbuster spectacles that truly were spectacular, Pirates 2 will be most welcome. Things are looking bleak for Captain Jack, Elizabeth and Will Turner as Pirates 2 opens (Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom respectively).
For Will and Elizabeth, their wedding is not only ruined by rain, but also warrants for their arrest by the British Crown. The lovers and the disgraced Admiral Norrington (Jack Davenport) are all wanted in connection with Captain Jack’s “escape” at the end of Film One. It’s not just Jack they want, but the treasure finding ability of his compass. If Will can produce Jack’s compass, he and Elizabeth will be cleared of all charges.
The man holding these warrants is cause for even more concern. He is Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) and he represents the East India Trading Co. He is the very same man who branded Captain Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack is a marked man in more ways than one. The pirate has a debt to pay to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), the maritime beastie / ghost and captain of the Flying Dutchman. Jack essentially sold his soul to Jones in exchange for being made captain.
Now marked with the black spot, Jack and the crew of the Black Pearl must escape Jones, his monstrous crew and his tentacled titan, the Krakken. How low will Captain Jack sink to survive? How far must Will go to free Elizabeth? How will she, in turn, rescue Will? It’s all tied to the dead man’s chest of the title -- Davy Jones’ to be precise -- and that’s where the fun begins.
Pirates 2 is a twisty tale where the lines of allegiance are constantly being redrawn. It’s a pirate’s life for everyone (including the “good” guys) and no one is better skilled in the art of stealing, back stabbing and cheating than Captain Jack Sparrow.
Johnny Depp owns the character of Captain Jack without question. Every tick, slur and swish is timed for maximum comic effect. You love the scallywag even when he’s screwing his own friends and crew to stay alive. Though you know he’s eventually going to do the right thing (those moments he loves to wave to as they pass by), the delight we receive in watching him dance around having to do so makes this film.... heck, the whole genre of pirate films.
It’s no surprise that Captain Jack is now a permanent fixture on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. After only two films, you can’t have one without the other. The filmmakers know this and are glad to let Jack shine throughout the sequel. Screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio clearly enjoy working in the Pirates universe. I dare say they like it even more than the Shrek films they’ve written.
The downside of this fascination with Captain Jack is that the other male lead pales in comparison. No matter how well Orlando Bloom swashbuckles , he never matches Depp’s charisma.
It’s not that the character of Will Turner is left on the poop deck. In Pirates 2, Will is reunited with his father “Boot Strap” Turner (Stellan Skarsgard) when Jack tricks Will into taking his place on the Flying Dutchman. “Boot Strap” has been enslaved by Davy Jones and Will must con the marine Mephistopheles into releasing his father, himself and the whereabouts of his hidden chest.
Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth fares much better in the Captain Jack show. Elizabeth, as we know from film one, has always been mystified by pirates. In fact, you get the feeling she wants to be one.
In Pirates 2, she gets her chance and her acts of double crossing sets up much of what will happen in Pirates 3. Knightley also adds a dash of sexuality to an otherwise chaste pirate tale (don’t these scoundrels ever go wenching?).
Though Pirates 2 clearly has star wattage (especially with the return of nearly the entire supporting cast from Curse of the Black Pearl), it is the spectacle that seals the deal.
From the sight of the Black Pearl beached on sandy shores to three budget busting Krakken attacks, Pirates 2 never ceases to marvel the eye or thrill the spirit. Overstuffing the film with action does lead to moments that defy believability, but this is a film where Pirates and sea monsters exist side by side.
Suspension of disbelief is required and rewarded.
The action scenes are top notch (no big surprise with Jerry Bruckheimer as producer). Kudos also go to Gore Verbinski (no stranger to Rube Goldberg mayhem ever since his Mousehunt days) for balancing character and excitement. A three way sword fight on top of a runaway windmill is just one of many manic set pieces. There’s also an extended escape from a cannibal village high upon a craggy cliff where the prison is a ball cage of bone and timber hanging in the abyss.
Your jaw will drop!
The visual effects are just as mind blowing. Though nothing can top the site of Pirates turning in and out of skeletons under the moonlight, Davy Jones and his crew are worthy successors. This unholy crew of crusty Pirates are formed from various parts of the sea. Davy Jones himself is unequal parts barnacle, crab, and octopus. Other crew members have blowfish cheeks, eel stomachs and shark heads... all at the same time in some cases.
On paper this may sound like a hodge podge, but those wizened wizards at ILM once again deliver a motion tracking miracle. Never once does Bill Nighy’s performance get lost beneath the CG and make up.
In fact, the computer artistry only enhances his menace. For fans of the Disney parks, there are still many nods to the attraction on which Pirates 2 is based. The dog with the keys is a constant familiar. We also get glimpses of a bayou that is very reminiscent of Lafittes’s Landing in the Disneyland incarnation of the ride.
There’s even a nod to Captain Nemo and his organ from Disney’s rendition of ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.’ Thankfully, we’re spared any ‘Little Mermaid’ gags.
Despite all this Disneyana, there are moments in Pirates 2 that are clearly too intense for children. In addition to Davy Jones and his crew, there are scenes of savagery like the opening’s pirate prison where captured men are clapped in irons and left for the crows to pick their eyes out.
Macabre color for the adults. A little too disturbing for wee ones. Pirates 2, like so many other summer films, is also too long. The aforementioned cannibal sequence, while being very well staged, is unnecessary to the story at large.
Regardless of its running time, there are many plot points introduced in Pirates 2 that are left unresolved (remember that third film coming soon). There are also one or two cliffhangers to deal with.
After experiencing ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,’ however, you’ll have no trouble lining up in 2007 for the next installment.
Opens wide July 7th. MPAA rated PG 13