Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Reviews
The plot has something to do with ole' Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, of course) and his debt to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Debts, as we've all learned by now, are not things Mr. Sparrow is most proficient at repaying. The Dead Man's Chest factors in as it holds Mr. Jones' beating heart, which was ravaged by the likes of a lady whom he loved in the past. The English Navy blowhards also seem to be after the chest, and blackmail William Turner (Orlando Bloom) to seek out Capt. Jack's magic compass, which supposedly points toward the treasure. Held in a cell is Will's fiancé, Elizabeth Swan (Kiera Knightley), under charges of assisting Capt. Jack in the franchise's last swashbuckler. What it boils down to is a mottled mess of a chase to find the key to Davey Jones' chest, and avoiding his gargantuan beast, the Kraken.
The myth itself wrings deeper than the original's, with Davey Jones and his seafood cohorts rendered with an unholy amount of CGI goodness to make them squirm convincingly in all their scaly, slippery evil. But the plot doesn't hold much water, same as the first, though plot was never the point. As long as it paints a tastily mythological backdrop for our pirates to plunder, we're kept smiling. And even though the picture has all the weight of a paperclip, the franchise has at least matured since it's last time around. The mood has thickened and no longer can we tell that the film is a shameless translation of its Disneyland ride. Writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio take efforts to develop each of our three heroes separately, using individual sub-plots to fill in the otherwise empty molds left dry from the original. Will Turner has a family reunion with his father (Stellan Skarsgard), enslaved by Davy Jones and appearing as though he's slowly evolving into a starfish. Will's fiancé, Ms. Swan, escapes from her cell and hides as a stowaway on a trade vessel. And Jack, of course still functioning as the star of the show, develops his slimier persona with delectable cowardice and deception. Ironic that the teenagers of America have chosen Mr. Sparrow as their most prized character in film. Oh, wait, that honor instead belongs to Napoleon Dynamite. Perhaps we should be nervous about our country's future?
Anyway, along with the characters the adventure is also thickened heartily; though probably not by consequence of the writing, but instead because of the greatly inflated budget. Our friends are volleyed about the seas, facing the enormous sea monster, the Kraken, whose plunger-like tentacles crumple vessels like copy-paper. Swordplay is more indulgent too, with Verbinksi going so far as to mount a chivalric swordfight inside a huge, rolling waterwheel as it bounces along the island's foliage. Verbinski juggles these stunts with ease, proving once again his film-making versatility. If you'll remember all the way back to last October (I know, in Hollywood-time nine months is an epoch) Verbinski made a quiet, gloomy little character study called The Weather Man. And before that, Verbinski also directed The Ring and Captain Jack's first adventure in 2003. Yup, this guy's the real deal. In the waterwheel sequence, Verbinski chooses not to succumb to any mere CGI trickery, and mounts a camera on the wheel's axis to show that at one point he forced Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom to swordfight on a giant spinning wooden wheel. And he's more artistic than your typical Brett Ratner-esquire director, finding a visual aesthetic perfect for a pirate's tale.
But art and pretentious critic fodder aside, Dead Man's Chest is great entertainment. It's rich and exciting and chock-full of Captain Jack-isms for high schoolers to repeat over and again. And the life of pirates is still a chunk of history that Hollywood has been unwilling to bite into for a while. Pirates of the Caribbean, for all its feathery, lightweight fun, gorges on this chunk and keeps us hooked on the adventure, waiting along with all the local eighth and ninth graders next year for the midnight showing of Captain Jack's trilogy capper.Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest does the right thing as a sequel: It maintains the same carefree spirit of the original and creates an even more fitting story to the whole Pirates lore. After narrowly escaping the gallows--with the help of his friends Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley)--and reclaiming his cursed Black Pearl, it still seems Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has a few more fish to fry. More specifically the barnacle-encrusted undead on board the ghostly Flying Dutchman, lead by Mr. Octopus Face himself, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Jack apparently owes a blood debt to the inky captain and if he can't find a way out of it--namely locating the secret contents of Jones' famed locker--Sparrow will be doomed to eternal damnation and servitude in the afterlife (insert Jack Sparrow's face of disgust here). Making matters worse, Sparrow's problems manage to interfere with the wedding plans of Will and Elizabeth, who are forced to join Jack on yet another one of his misadventures.
Depp's Oscar-nominated performance as Captain Jack is still a marvel in slovenly pirate behavior, with his slurred speech, swaying swagger and slack, waving arms. But whether channeling famed Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards or not, it's the duality of the character that continues to intrigue us. He is a lusty, fearless man with a deeply defiant and somewhat sneaky streak but whose delicate features, long, dread locked hair, Kohl-rimmed eyes and almost girly mannerisms give him a subtly effeminate air that belies his macho antics. This time around, young Brits Knightley and Bloom have a little more to do, with Elizabeth's growing attraction to Jack and Will's reunion with his father, Bill "Bootstrap" Turner (Stellan Skarsgård), who's soul is stuck on the Flying Dutchman. And Nighy (Love Actually) once again makes his mark as an effective villain, infusing his rather quirky acting ticks--the laconic delivery, the laid-back attitude--which shines through all the special effects make-up. Let's just say, Nighy certainly rivals Depp in the arrogant rock star stance, even if he has tentacles for a face.
The other thing Dead Man's Chest does right is make things bigger and better. From a hair-raising sword fight on top of a spinning water wheel to the way Davy Jones and his crew look--all water logged and crustacean-like--the film's production value is simply amazing. Returning producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski make sure the action sequences, the sets, the costumes, the make-up and the special effects give the audience a familiarity to the original while also taking them on a whole new adventure. And if you are a fan of the Disney park attraction (the one at Disneyland, not Disney World), the elements that got missed in the first one--the creepy bayou, the beating heart in the treasure chest--are in this sequel. Dead Man's Chest does lag a bit from time to time, especially in heating up the Jack, Elizabeth and Will love triangle. But that's OK. We enjoy watching their banter, as much as we do the rest of it. And for those who'll want more adventure after the movie ends, Dead Man's Chest gives us a promise the third installment will be just as much pirate fun.
Who'd of thought a movie based on a theme park and pirates would be so successful that it would garner a sequel. A sequel that was so so so utterly huge in production values it makes perfect sense that it would fail to live up to its predecessor. The old lesson Hollywood never learns, making things bigger and flashier doesn't always mean it will be better.
The plot? oh geez where to begin. This is the main issue with this franchise which begun in this sequel, only to get worse in the third film. The story becomes so convoluted and twisty its hard to keep up, and this is a Disney film! Put very simply...most of the characters are all after various bit n pieces including Davy Jones heart, Sparrow's compass and the Black Pearl. Each character has their own reason for needing each item and most of these reasons intertwine with each other at some point, oh and old characters come back into the fray.
The plot is the first film was pretty straight forward, I'm not saying simple is best but it was easy to swallow. This film kicks off relatively well with the characters we know in trouble for helping Sparrow, a deal is set, a plan underway and everybody knows who is doing what and why. The trouble is as the film progresses sub plots pop up, new characters enter with their own story arcs, old characters come back with more story arcs, plans change and double crossing ensues. I can't deny it becomes tricky but in the end it is decipherable and when you think about it its quite good.
So once you've got your head around the plot you do tend to notice how big everything has become. The prison Sparrow escapes from at the start looks very similar to some kind of fortress you'd expect to see in a Tolkien story. The entire early cannibal infested island part of the film really does show how the franchise took a swing for the worst. Sparrow, Norrington and Turner break out into a three way fight over Jones chest which lasts for at least 10-15 minutes, displays way way too much slapstick, completely unbelievable cartoon stunts that detach you from the film and the trio end up covering half the island whilst battling! In short the whole sequence wasn't needed, it was completely overblown and merely flashy filler, it bared no importance to the plot whatsoever...and this is what you will come to expect from the franchise thereafter.
Now of course we know this franchise is a comedy of sorts, a period set comedy action thriller for everyone to enjoy. The first film had a nice balance of that plus some supernatural fantasy that really worked well. This sequel added that horrendous cartoonish hijinx that totally tore you away from any suspension of disbelief because it went beyond that into a pure hokey farce.
On top of the ludicrous tomfoolery now on show this film has easily had much more creative influence from the classic videogame The Secret of Monkey Island. If you know the game its quite plain to see really, the cannibal island at the start, the murky, misty, swampy location where the team meet voodoo priestess Tia Dalma and of course that character in her entirety, plus the similarity Jones has to LeChuck in terms of evil behaviour, the supernatural and looks.
It is a shame because the film is a good fantasy with some gorgeous visuals both CGI and real time. Davy Jones and his crew are incredible, a real sight to behold, especially Jones squid-like face of course. Its amazing to actually see CGI that looks so good you think its a real makeup job. The other crew members are also so vividly imaginative and well crafted, every scene with these fishy dogs was really great fun, I was always looking out for different types of mutants in the background. I really liked their vessel the Dutchman and the war torn barnacle covered ghost ship appearance it was given (much like the Pearl and its ghostly shrouds of mist n fog), and of course the Kraken was a fun nautical myth to include if somewhat unoriginal and not too good on the CGI front.
Its still a fun film which is saved by the British actors and their astoundingly fun well spoken pomposity, that and the excellent effects on Jones and his (undead?) crew. The finale for Sparrow is an exciting cliffhanger even though you know he will be back. Its interesting to see a group of heroes bickering and double crossing each other instead of simply fighting together as one unbeatable team, and that supernatural spice is just right. The plot difficulties do mire proceedings but Verbinski just about pulls it off and manages to provide decent escapism.