Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/09/2006
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a fun popcorn movie. Why would I start out with such a generic statement? It’s because, for it’s few flaws (which I will describe below), you should take that into consideration before you stress over the things that might be wrong with it (as many of my other critic colleagues have done.)
The movie begins not long after the events of 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce), is ready to marry childhood friend/former blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in Port Royal, but she thinks that she is being stood up in the rain at first. She quickly finds out the truth though, which is that Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company, along with his enforcer Mercer (David Schofield), has arrested Will for letting the infamous pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) go at the end of the first movie. To make matters worse, he has also arrested Elizabeth and former Commodore James Norrington (Jack Davenport) for the same reason. Will bargains with Beckett for the release of Elizabeth and himself, and Beckett agrees to the bargain…if Will can find Sparrow and bring the pirate’s magical compass to Beckett (he doesn’t tell Will why he wants it.) Beckett wants Sparrow’s compass because the compass will lead you to your heart’s true desire…whether it be true love, a treasure, in the case of Beckett, the Dead Man’s Chest containing the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy.) Davy is the ghostly captain of the Flying Dutchman. He rules the seas and collects wayward souls along the way (he is only allowed to be on land once every ten years.) He has a beard made of octopus tentacles and hands made out of crustaceous claws. His half-dead crew consists of Maccus (Dermot Keaney), who has a head that looks like a hammerhead shark; Hadras (Ho-Kwan Tse), whose face is half-obscured by a shell; and many other equally odd creatures. According to legend, the person who has the heart will control Davy, and Beckett wants to use this power to rid the seas of every last pirate. Meanwhile, Sparrow, along with his crew on the Black Pearl…drunken first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin R. Mcnally); the mute Cotton (David Bailie), along with his talking parrot; the tough but diminutive Marty (Martin Klebba); goofballs Pintel (Lee Arenberg) and Ragetti (Mackenzie Cook); and Poochie, the prison dog with the keys from Curse…are looking for the Dead Man’s Chest as well. All he has is a drawing of the chest’s key, and his compass seems to be broken. That night, while searching for some rum, Will’s dad, “Bootstrap” Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), who’s now one of Davy’s crewmates, appears before Sparrow. Bill had been a member of the Pearl’s crew, but Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) ordered his men to chain him to a cannonball and toss him into the sea back when the crew were cursed under his command. Since Bill was immortal, the pressure from the sea was torture. He made a deal with Davy to offer his services to Davy and work aboard the Dutchman for eternity. Davy has sent him to give a message to Sparrow that it is time for him to repay an old debt to Davy, or Davy will send his “pet,” the Kraken (a huge deadly octopus), after him. Bill gives Sparrow the “Black Spot” (a black growth that forms on his hand) in order to remind him. The “debt” is that Davy made him the captain of the Pearl thirteen years ago, and now he owes the Dutchman’s captain his everlasting servitude for eternity. If he can get Davy’s heart and stab it, then he can avoid the debt he owes to Davy. Back in Will’s world, he finds out that the Pearl has been abandoned on a remote island. The remaining crew is freaked out, because a cannibalistic tribe rules the island, and Sparrow is missing. Will is soon confronted the tribe, who shoot him with a poison dart, tie him to a pole, and take him back to their village, where Will finds out that Sparrow has been made their king. Unfortunately, that isn’t a good thing, because kings are released into the heavens by cooking them and eating them. Will manages to save Sparrow and get back to the Pearl (Poochie is left behind though.) Once aboard the Pearl, Will demands the compass from Sparrow. He’ll give Will his compass but only after Will helps him find the key to the Dead Man’s Chest. They go to the Bayou to see a voodoo priestess named Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris.) They give her Jack (Barbossa’s undead monkey) in exchange for info on where to find Davy. She tells them where the Dutchman is located, and she gives Sparrow a jar of dirt to protect him (the dirt is “land,” since Davy isn’t allowed to step on it.) They go to the Dutchman, and Sparrow sends Will in to settle Sparrow’s debt with Davy. Davy spots Sparrow though, and he tells Sparrow that he will release him from his debt if he can collect 99 souls in three days (he will keep Will as collateral.) Sparrow and his crew head to Tortuga to find those souls. Back on Port Royal, Elizabeth manages to escape, but not before forcing Beckett to sign a letter of marque (letters making someone a privateer, not a pirate.) She poses as a man and joins the Pearl crew, which also includes Norrington, who just wants to get his position and honour back (he has been freed by this time, but he has also been disgraced.) Back on the Dutchman, Will meets his long-lost father Bill, and he finds out information from Bill as to where Davy has hidden the key. Sparrow wants to find Davy’s heart (to escape his debt), Will wants to find the key to get the compass from Sparrow to free Elizabeth (and possibly help his father now), and Elizabeth wants to find Will (though she seems to flirt with Sparrow a lot, which he responds to…proving that he isn’t gay, but just drunk and flamboyant.)
Yes…it does have a few problems. First thing might be its length. The movie is 2 ½ hours long (seven minutes longer than Curse.) The second thing is that it is a little slow in parts at the beginning (but after re-watching Curse again, I realized that it had some slow parts as well…so it shouldn’t be a problem.) The third thing might be a sense of déjà vu while watching it. I think that I noticed it the most during the scene in Tortuga when they were recruiting pirates to offer up to Davy Jones…which was similar to the recruitment scene when Jack and Will were going after the Pearl in the first movie.
Otherwise…it was just escapism that was unrealistic…but fun. Along with more actual movie, it had more of everything else. It had more action, more special effects (which were very impressive), and more jocularity. My favorite scene has to be a 3-way swordfight between Jack, Will, and Norrington…all while riding on a runaway rolling mill well wheel (it’s something you just have to experience to really get the full picture.)
All the major players are back. Even during the slow parts, Depp never ceases to entertain. While I don’t think that it’s going to earn him a second Oscar nomination, since the reaction to the film in general has been mixed by other critics (as of this writing, it stands at 53% on the Tomatometer…which is considered “rotten”), I think that fans of Depp will be very pleased (I know that I was.) Bloom is an actor that I’m liking more and more with each film. Knightley has been very good since I first noticed her in 2002’s Bend it Like Beckham (I first “saw” her in 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but I didn’t her “notice” her in it), and she’s been constantly first-rate ever since. Her good movies (Beckham, 2003’s Love Actually, 2005’s The Jacket and Domino) are great (at least in my opinion), but she is also good in the movies I’ve hated of hers (2004’s King Arthur, 2005’s Pride & Prejudice…again, just my opinion.) She’s proven her action chops, and she gets to show them off more in this one than she did in Curse. Her Love Actually co-star, Nighy, is also an actor I’m really impressed with. I first noticed him in Actually, and he has been a chameleon between his comic roles an some memorable bad guy roles (the Underworld movies; this movie.) For an actor who has been around for thirty years, he must love the 21st century.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest may be getting a mixed reaction from other critics, but I don’t think that you will find a single real person who will be disappointed with it. Unless they weren’t crazy about the first one, I can’t imagine that they will loathe this one. Director Gore Verbinski has the distinction pleasing audiences more often than disappointing them. In between the Pirates movies, he directed the Nicholas Cage movie The Weather Man, which I loved, but it was a commercial bomb (it probably didn’t have enough mischievous mice, creepy videotape girls, Brad Pitt, or pirates in it to satisfy audiences. I recommend it highly though.) That won’t be the case here, because I think that it will be a pirate’s life again for fans…just like it was three years ago…and the merriment should continue on to the third chapter, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (the rumored title for part 3, due out next May.) Shiver me timbers!
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