Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Review
By Joe Lozito
"Chest" of Bores
2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"
isn't exactly tops on my list of films that beg for a sequel - let alone two sequels filmed simultaneously. Still, there were enough fun moments in the original "Pirates" - particularly, of course, Johnny Depp's pirate-as-rock-star performance - that I approached "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" with a mild curiosity. The premise too seemed clever enough: something to do with Davy Jones and his infamous locker. But make no mistake, "Pirates 2" is just another messy sequel created in the hopes of cobbling together a profitable franchise from, of all things, a theme park ride.
As you'd expect from a sequel, everything that made the original interesting is amplified to within an inch of its life, particularly, in this case, the CGI. Where the original film had ghostly pirates that turned to skeletons in the moonlight, this one has a villainous crew made up of humanoid sea creatures (the guy with the hammer-head is my favorite). However, there's little of the humor and, yes, the actual pirating that made the original so much fun.
Nearly the entire original cast is back, including Keira Knightley as the plucky Elizabeth Swann, Orlando Bloom as the bland Will Turner and, of course, Johnny Depp as the inimitable Captain Jack Sparrow. Also returning are the writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio who cleverly latch on to the Davy Jones character for the backbone of their nearly incomprehensible plot. Director Gore Verbinski has learned to deftly incorporate live action and CGI trickery and has a sure hand with the film's many action sequences. He seems particularly adept at any scene involving rolling (there's both a runaway water wheel and a make-shift hamster wheel in the film). Mr. Verbinski, however, has a hard time smoothing out the rough patches in the script.
There are few performances in film that add up to much more than camp, but Bill Nighy and Stellan Skarsgård acquit themselves nicely behind layers of prosthetics as Davy Jones and Bootstrap Bill, respectively. [editor's note: actually 'twas pure CGI that made up Davy, no prosthetics involved; find out how it was done here]
. The one truly interesting new character is a voodoo priestess played by Naomie Harris (Selena from "28 Days Later"). Her Tia Dalma is as surprising a discovery as Jack Sparrow was in the original. Seeing more of her is nearly enough to make me come back for the third film. And, of course, we know there's a third film coming. No secret has been made of that. The overly-long film ends on a perilously uninteresting cliff-hanger that leaves nearly every thread of the plot hanging free.
This trend of filming two sequels at once has to stop. That's not to say it can't be done well ("Lord of the Rings" comes to mind), but too often the second movie in a proposed trilogy ends up feeling like filler. Call it the curse of "Back to the Future 2". The second "Matrix" movie had it. And "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" has it in spades. Gone are the days of "The Godfather Part II" or "The Empire Strikes Back" or even "Toy Story 2". Films that advanced their characters, their stories and stood on their own. Now trilogies aren't made because there's a story to be told. Only because there's money to be made. And if one sequel gets you big box office - imagine what two
sequels can do. Oh, there are pirates around, alright. But they're not on screen. They're in Hollywood offices counting their treasure.