Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

2006_dead_mans_chestTo pretend “The Curse of the Black Pearl” possessed an elaborate, epic story rich in characterization and subtle dialogue, would be to set up all sorts of pretensions. “Dead Man’s Chest” is in the same vein as the former, only slightly more intent on showing its blatant grab for big bucks. Disney ran out of ideas, turned to make their rides into movies and got lucky. Big whoop. “Dead Man’s Chest” is fun, though, and I can’t sweat them for that. Verbinski’s direction is on par as usual, and “Dead Man’s Chest” is a gorgeous epic, with some of the better action scenes that trump the original’s.

Though, the original can’t be topped in sheer dread, “Dead Man’s Chest” has a whimsy serial atmosphere that really clicked, with pretty fantastic cinematography. That is also helped by the amazing special effects from the folks of ILM who literally top themselves this time around providing some of the most unique villains of the squid faced Davy Jones, and his crew of seamen. One of the more interesting achievements is that audiences will have a hard time discerning make up effects from computer effects, but nonetheless, it’s seamless. Bill Nighy takes a memorable turn as the vicious Davy Jones, who seeks the chest that holds his heart, but can’t outrun Jack Sparrow who seeks it as a form of ransom, and to keep Will Turner under his control, after agreeing to trade his mysterious compass for Elizabeth’s freedom after they’re arrested shortly before their wedding for help Jack escape.

“Dead Man’s Chest” is filled with very good performances from Knightley, and Bloom and sports unique turns from some great actors including Naomie Harris as a Jamaican witch, and Stellan Skarsgård as the undead pirate “Bootstrap Bill,” who helps Turner attempt to outwit Jones. “Dead Man’s Chest” is entertaining because Depp and crew seem to have a bang up time as these pirates fighting for Jones’ heart, and the eventual confrontation with the Kraken under the sea. I still don’t understand the hype behind “Dead Man’s Chest.” Is it bad? No, but is it the masterpiece I’ve heard so much about? The masterpiece that people insist is a financial success because of its quality? No. In fact, I had this particular feeling that I was being duped the entire time with it. Ultimately, “Dead Man’s Chest” is much too long, and in that trapping, the film ends up feeling like two films, as a result.

One features Turner’s attempts break free, catch up with Jack Sparrow, and convince him to help him break Elizabeth free. The second movie features Turner coming across Davy Jones, spending time on his boat, and trying to catch up with Jack Sparrow on the island where Jones’ heart is. It feels as if suddenly, there was one writing team focusing on this rollicking light adventure, and suddenly another writing team was hired to create this almost disconnected second story was dreary, and utterly disjointed. While the second half features a slightly more cohesive plot, the first half watches like a pointless stunt show, as Disney puts ILM to work. Sword fighting on a huge rolling wheel, swinging from a cage made of bones, Sparrow attempting to keep from being eaten while strapped to a huge pole, and so on. The writers take so long arriving to the actual plot, that the first half really is nothing more than filler, and excuses to feature stunts and special effects, and after the first blatant stunt, it just becomes redundant and dull.

There’s mysteriously very little plot, and little to no elements that will involve the audience, thus it lags incredibly by the time the second half rolls around and finally explores the point of the movie. Davy Jones. And then to make it worse, Davy Jones isn’t played to his full potential, as he performs very little action sequences, leaving it up to the wholly boring giant monster the Kraken that demolishes every single enemy on the boat, and it was excessive. But that’s likely because the writers are keeping the good stuff for the third part of the trilogy. Which then becomes confusing.

There’s a wholly unresolved climax in “Dead Man’s Chest” that feels like a cheap gimmick to keep people coming into theaters. “Want to find out what happened? Watch part three!” Full Moon Pictures still receives flack for creating the “Subspecies” franchise that had each movie end on a cliffhanger, yet “Dead Man’s Chest” gets away with this? Not on my watch, buster. Yeah, I said buster. The entire film feels like a preamble to something better, and it’s a cheap ploy, because what’s the point of calling it a trilogy, and asking audiences to invest in the story of “Dead Man’s Chest,” if it’s basically just filler leading up to something much bigger and better? “Dead Man’s Chest” is comfortably in the middle ground. It’s not as bad as I’ve heard it described by many, yet, it’s far from any resemblance to the masterpiece audiences have described it as. Quite a conundrum, no? Ironically I was conflicted as well. “Dead Man’s Chest” feels like two movies: one good, one pretty pointless, neither of which is worth the hype.