Dead Mans Chest is the second movie in a trio of Pirates of the Caribbean films, and is a worthy successor to Gore Verbinski’s first pirate flick. What was surprising about Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse Of The Black Pearl was its unique approach: a sort of black comedy built around a solid story line, great acting, good effects and a cheeky wink in the form of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. It appealed to a wide audience, which is all the more surprising when you consider that it was based around a Disneyland ride. The second instalment is, however, a slightly darker, more effects-driven movie, but contains the same winning formula—and most of the cast—from the original film. Those who were worried that Hollywood is trying to stretch a good idea too thin will be pleasantly surprised.
The story carries on from where the first instalment left off with our dashing hero Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) about to marry Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) but is unfortunately arrested (along with his fiancé) and thrown in jail. Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), the sinister representative of the East India Trading Company, offers Will the chance of redeeming himself by finding Captain Jack Sparrow and obtaining his magic compass. Unfortunately Jack has bigger fish to fry—literally!—as he has struck a life-threatening deal with Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a sort of half man half squid, who is the captain of The Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship full of characters that belong in fishmonger’s window.
At a bladder-bursting 150 minutes the movie is only slightly longer than the original film but does start to drag in places. It takes a little while to get going, but when it does, it’s a highly entertaining piece of cinema and we are treated to a dazzling array of visual effects and stunning new characters.
Depp’s Captain Jack originally worried the producers and during the filming of the first film they questioned whether his camp and drawling persona was going to ruin the whole movie. However he pulled it off and audiences loved his portrayal, creating his most popular role to date. His slapstick prancing is comical and fresh, and Depp has an array of quirky gestures and idiosyncrasies that really add to his character without veering into outright pantomime. Unfortunately contrasting to this are the slightly limp Bloom and Knightley, both giving rather average performances. As the romantic couple we are left feeling rather uninterested about their relationship, but luckily some of the finest character actors around, such as Mackenzie Crook and Lee Arenberg, and newcomer Naomie Harris as the fantastic swamp-dwelling voodoo enchantress, inject some pep into proceedings.
No review of this movie would be complete without a nod to the visual effects. The glorious octopus face of Davy Jones, and and his band of ghoulish buccaneers, is beautifully detailed and visually stunning. The crowning glory is perhaps the giant tenticled Kraken, a beast controlled by Davy Jones capable of sinking ships and taking its crew to the bottom of the ocean. At no point does the writhing mass of nautical CGI falter, and in fact rivals anything Peter Jackson or George Lucas has produced.
From time to time the movie starts to drift, but the plentiful supply of silliness and inventive special effects more than save it. A word of warning, however: if you want to follow the plot completely, go and rent the first movie again. References to the first instalment will leave you in the dark especially if it’s been a while since you saw it. The second and third movies were filmed together and Dead Mans Chest ends on a cliffhanger rather than resolving itself (eager fans will have to wait until May 2007 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End to find out what happens). Some may even be confused by the plot which is twisting and convoluted and as difficult to grasp as a slimy tentacle.
The movie should have been pruned to prevent it from dragging in places, but ably demonstrates that the troubled Disney knows how to produce a genuine summer blockbuster without diluting the original franchise when it wants to. The stunning eye candy and comedy moments make it great entertainment. Definitely one to watch at the movie theatre; so try to avoid pirate copies.
Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Mans Chest (2006)
Dir. Gore Verbinski
Stars: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Bill Nighy
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama