Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
Pirates of the Caribbean has long been one of Disneyland's most popular rides, and in 2003 the Disney studio hoped to turn its famous ride into a successful film franchise. The first film,
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl gave us Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a roguish pirate with a certain undeniable charm. Sparrow was on a mission to reclaim his ship'The Black Pearl'from Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). The film claimed a huge booty at the box office and even nabbed an Oscar nomination for Depp.
This summer, Disney looks to build on its investment. It has added Sparrow and Barbossa to its theme park ride (an act of sacrilege for those who didn't like the film and a fitting addition for those who embraced the movie), and it has completed the first of two sequels (which were shot simultaneously to maximize profitability). With nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars tied up in its pair of Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, the studio will be watching the box office very closely as Dead Man's Chest opens for business this weekend.
As he did in Curse of the Black Pearl , Sparrow makes an amusing first appearance in Dead Man's Chest . Instead of disembarking from a sinking ship as in the last film, this time Sparrow emerges from a coffin tossed into the ocean from an ominous prison cliff. Jack punches a hole in the coffin and, with the help of a limb from the corpse, turns the coffin into a kayak. The curse may have been lifted from his beloved Black Pearl but now Sparrow has to repay a blood debt to the notorious Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) who captains a ghostly ship known as the Flying Dutchman. Sparrow's only hope of escaping his debt'and holding onto his soul'is to get his hands on the fabled Dead Man's Chest.
Unfortunately, Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company is also after the Chest, which he hopes will help him control commerce on the high seas. Beckett, representing the new breed of corporate pirate, has essentially coerced Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) into aiding him in his quest. He has interrupted their wedding and threatened them with execution if they do not bring him the Chest, which will give him control over Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman.
The first Pirates movie provided forced, calculated fun redeemed by Johnny Depp's inspired performance as Sparrow. Depp had the right attitude'don't take things too seriously, maintain an eccentric sense of humor and take home a big paycheck. He wandered through the film on wobbly sea legs and in a kind of rum-soaked stupor that made the silliness and stupidity bearable, and sometimes even entertaining. He seemed to be poking fun at the bloated pretentiousness of the film and that made it fun.
But Depp cannot redeem the sequel Dead Man's Chest 'there are simply too many problems. Gore Verbinski returns as director and fails yet again to invest his saga with any panache. His action is as mechanically delivered as the animatronic figures in the ride'predictable and repetitious. He once again stretches a flimsy plot to a two-hour plus running time. Then to make matters worse, he ties the plot up into so many unnecessary knots that it's hard to untangle. There are curses and side plots and secret deal making and shifts in power and unmotivated action and' well you get the idea. This film isn't even smart enough to occasionally shine the spotlight on Johnny Depp. His Sparrow is made so tangential to the story that Depp doesn't even get to work his charm on the audience. Depp is merely a supporting player to the film's bloated action sequences.
Verbinski'whose Mouse Hunt felt like a Disneyland ride'feels like he overseeing a corporate product rather than a movie with a story to tell. So he fills the frame with things that would look good on the ride or made cool toys but fails to invest the film with much personality or inspiration. Only his remake of The Ring displayed any inkling of style or storytelling. Verbinski makes his latest Pirate installment a lumbering, creaking behemoth weighed down by a massive budget and heavy pressure to turn a profit. But a film like this, that's meant as summer entertainment should be swift and nimble.
I would, however, like to commend his technical crew on the amazing make-up and special effects. Davy Jones' octopus-like head with its tentacles twitching is a marvel. It's just a shame that such fine effects work is not in service of a better script and film.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (rated PG-13 for action adventure violence) makes you long for the Disneyland ride, which was clever, fun and over before you grew tired of its charms. -----