Thursday, July 13, 2006

Movie Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"


Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgard, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce
Directed by Gore Verbinski

Official Web site

In 2003, there wasn’t a lot of buzz behind “Pirates of the Caribbean,”
as the action-packed film sailed into theaters during the summer. After
all, it was based on a Disney theme park ride – not what one would call
high pedigree source material. Plus, it starred Johnny Depp, a highly
respected actor who had little to no box office pull with audiences.
But then the movie took the industry by surprise, becoming a smash hit
when it pulled in more than $300 million in America alone.

With that kind of success, a follow-up was inevitable. But unlike the
first go around, heavy expectations and pressures came with its sequel,
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” The fact that this film
serves as the second of a trilogy (the third “Pirates” will sail into
theaters next summer) put the filmmakers in the position of advancing
the story, while setting the table for chapter three.

In “Dead Man’s Chest,” gone is much of the exposition needed to
introduce the main characters in the first movie. Yet, the sequel still
comes in at a bloated two-and-a half-hour running time, complete with a
cliffhanger, as opposed to an actual ending.

While young lovers Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann
(Keira Knightley) are set to be married at the film’s beginning, their
involvement with the self-involved Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp,
once again the movie’s top asset) leads the couple to swift
imprisonment. Facing the gallows pole, Will reluctantly agrees to track
Sparrow down, as the British government has designs on obtaining the
captain’s compass.

Captain Jack has problems of his own, with a debt to repay to the
villainous Davy Jones (a completely unrecognizable Bill Nighy), who
seems a cross between an octopus, crab and human. Indebted to Jones for
getting to be the captain of the Black Pearl, Sparrow desperately wants
to avoid payment, willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to placate
him.

Being the wily person that he is, Sparrow finds a possible bargaining
chip when he learns of a chest that Jones would very much like to get
his hands on. Naturally, Jones has the key himself, further
complicating retrieval efforts. So the game is afoot, with Captain Jack
and his oddly devoted and just plain odd crew on one side, with Jones
and his crew of (mostly) undead creatures on the other. Throw in the
Kraken, a gigantic, deadly sea creature controlled by Jones, along with
an island full of hungry cannibals, and you’ve got a veritable overload
of activity.

The fact that the film doesn’t buckle under the weight of all the
characters and their subsequent dashing (or sailing) to and fro is a
credit to director Gore Verbinski, who also helmed the first “Pirates.”
The movie’s many action scenes are rather convincingly and effectively
filmed, even when the activity in them is rather far from realistic
(which is most of the time).

While still delivering a number of laughs along the way, there’s no
denying that “Dead Man’s Chest” is a darker journey. Thanks to
excellent f/x and makeup work, the villains are appropriately creepy
and menacing – probably too much so for younger children.

The actors all generally acquit themselves nicely, with Stellan
Skarsgard as Will’s father, trapped in a life of servitude on Jones’
ship, as a particular standout among the supporting performances. Depp
continues his unique approach to Captain Jack, capturing the
character’s amazing ability to be both noble and a complete coward –
often in the blink of an eye. However, Sparrow is generally less
likable this time out, making the devotion of Will, Elizabeth and his
crew a little puzzling at times.

But much like the first film, “Dead Man’s Chest” gives audiences what
they want: lots of action, a few laughs and some old-fashioned, scary
fun. For some, it will feel like a bit of overkill (an understandable
argument given the overlong running time). But, then again, when you’re
based on a theme park ride, a little leeway might be necessary.

Grade: B
(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.)

1 comment:

Jack said...

I've been waiting for you to review this.