Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
by Gore Verbinski (Dir.)
Review by Drew Bittner
Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures Theatrical ISBN/ITEM#: B00005JP0D
Date: July 2006 / Show Official Info /
Cast: Jack Sparrow - Johnny Depp * Will Turner - Orlando Bloom * Elizabeth Swann - Keira Knightley * Norrington - Jack Davenport * Davy Jones - Bill Nighy * Stellan Skarsgard - Bootstrap Bill * Naomie Harris - Tia Dalma * Tom Hollander - Cutler Beckett
In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Will and Elizabeth are placed under arrest by Beckett (Hollander), an old enemy of her father's (Jonathan Pryce). He has the authority of the King to find and arrest Jack Sparrow--but what he really wants is Jack's compass, which points the way to a literally priceless treasure.
If Will and Elizabeth hope to escape a death sentence, they'll return with Jack's compass.
As for Jack, he has problems of his own: an old debt is finally called due. Jack, who bartered his soul to Davy Jones in order to captain the Black Pearl for thirteen years, must pay up. Visited by the sea wraith Bootstrap Bill in the hold of his pirate ship, Jack learns that his time is up; he will be taken to join the crew of the Flying Dutchman. Needless to say, this is a fate he desperately hopes to avoid but he cannot argue his way out of it. Instead, he'll have to fall back on a rather desperate scheme...
Will finds his way to Jack, coming to an island of cannibals where Jack seems to be the new king. It doesn't take long for the truth to emerge: Jack's to be the guest of honor at a very special feast, and is in need of rescue no less than Will.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth has stowed away aboard ship, disguised as a boy, and finds herself in Tortuga, notorious home port for countless pirates. There, she discovers Norrington, her onetime beau, who has been cast out of the British Navy for allowing Sparrow to escape justice. They form an unlikely partnership and continue the hunt for Jack and Will...and the treasure.
In this case, the treasure is not gold or gems. It is an object... and whoever holds it can control Davy and the kraken, a colossal undersea beast. To say that this object is greatly desired by these diverse parties is an understatement.
Suffice it to say, lest we spoil the ride, that is a nonstop rollercoaster of a movie, one that is loud and moves fast and doesn't let up for more than a second here and there. Like all amusement park rides, it keeps your attention... but after the second hour, it begins to wear somewhat. Depp is reliably odd and cunning as a rat in his persona of Captain Jack Sparrow; he is much the same as before, except that now he is rethinking his life and seems uncertain of his heart's desire.
Bloom and Knightley reprise the young lovers, but the course of true love does not run smooth. Not only is their wedding disrupted and their lives threatened, but Elizabeth learns that she has a bit of a pirate heart, while Will's reckless risks push him closer to being a genuine hero. Elizabeth does a couple of shocking things here-- and will certainly pay for them in the third movie.
Bill Nighy is, as ever, a marvel. Even under a CGI squid-mask, he breathes menace and heartfelt emptiness as Davy Jones, bringing depth to what could have been a thankless, cartoony role. Hollander is a sturdy villain as Beckett, while Pryce is ever more the doting father as Gov. Swann. Skarsgard brings unexpected pathos to the role of Bootstrap Bill, offering no apologies for his life as a pirate to his son Will, but showing that he has grit and fierce paternal loyalty when it counts.
The crew of the Dutchmen deserve comment as well. With the passage of years, they take on aquatic qualities-- a starfish dominates Bootstrap Bill's face, while others have literally merged with the ship in horrifying ways-- until they are subhuman monsters. The effects that bring these creatures to life are spectacular accomplishments in prosthetic makeup and CGI both.
The kraken makes an appearance no less than four times, which is probably two too many. By showing its horrific power early on, Verbinski squanders the chance to impress the audience later when the heroes are threatened more directly. Likewise, the protracted sword battle in the waterwheel and the doings among the cannibals (which are woefully under-explained) give the plot a scattershot feel.
While this installment works well enough as a bridge, the last segment will have to be pretty strong to make the entire trilogy effective. Otherwise, this will end up another Matrix: pretty, loud and colorful but ultimately empty and unsatisfying.
Much like a very long carnival ride, this movie leaves one feeling breathless, somewhat exhilarated, nerves a-jangle and slightly queasy. For an action blockbuster, that about fills the bill.