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Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Mark's Take)

01/08/2006. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Man's Chest in the USA - or Buy Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Man's Chest in the UK

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Captain Jack Sparrow is back in a two-and-a-half-hour story (and that is just the first part) that continues from the previous Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Much more than the last film, finds Mark, this one returns to the franchise origins as an amusement park ride. This time this film is darker - both literally and figuratively. The characters are established so director Gore Verbinski spent less time developing them and more time skewering them or having them sword fight in rolling mill wheels. But the fun is still there.

Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" series is trying to be for this generation what the Ray Harryhausen "Sinbad" films were for my generation. They have a very good shot at making it. Where Harryhausen built his films around his stop-motion effects, these films are built around CGI effects blended seamlessly with the live-action to tell imaginative stories. As with the Harryhausen films, they have the effects down really well and the plot needs just a bit of work. Part two of the series, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST, does not stand well on its own. Had I not seen the first film I would have been lost, and also the film ends on a cliffhanger. This episode is a bridge and as we see in the film some bridges are not very strong. Nearly all of the people who could be back are in the same places in front of and behind the cameras.

The grim story has few sunny skies. It opens on what should have been a happy day. As Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are to be married the King's men come ashore on their island to arrest them. Why? Well, you remember the last film ended with everyone lovably letting Jack Sparrow get away? It seems the authorities were not amused. Now there is hell to pay. Actually it is all part of a fantastical plot by the evil East India Company. (Aside: I have looked and can find no reference that the East India Company every operated in the Caribbean.

I do not have the knowledge to rule it out entirely, but I am highly skeptical. I suppose they are an infamous corporation of the time and these days corporations make ready screen villains.) Will and Elizabeth may be allowed to go free if they use their freedom to track down Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) for the law. Where is Jack? He is on an island of cannibals who also does not look like local boys. He is now king of the cannibals and he is loved so much they could just eat him up. And that is just the beginning of the new story.

The sea tale will bring all these people into the clutches of Davy Jones (who, under the impenetrable make-up and prosthetics, is played by the incomparable Bill Nighy. Davy Jones, we learn, is also the Flying Dutchman, which makes no sense at all because he is not Dutch and no previous legend has ever conflated the two figures to my knowledge. Davy Jones was a sea demon who in spite of the name was never human. The Flying Dutchman was a legendary cursed sailor or his boat.)

Davy Jones and his "men," as visualized here, are chimeras composed of human and sea animal parts. Davy himself has an octopus for a head and crab claws. Parents might be warned that some of the sea-horror images might be too intense for younger children. Yet with all the cutlass and knife play, there is no blood and the only gore is directing the film. The horror visages are so believably done it is impossible to tell what is prosthetics and what is CGI.

In the first film we were getting to know the characters and it is almost a pity that we now know them. The plot is now driven by the circumstances the characters find themselves in, and not so much by their personalities. The characters are much less developed in this film than in the previous one. Having seen the first film is somewhat a prerequisite for enjoying this one. One more point: In that first film we are told that Jack Sparrow recognized William Turner as resembling Bootstrap Bill, his father. We meet Bootstrap in this film. Stellan Skarsgård plays him. I leave it to the viewer to decide if Stellan Skarsgård actually has a strong resemblance to Orlando Bloom.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL was a total surprise. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST does not quite measure up, perhaps because we were expecting something really good. Hopefully next year's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END will have enough surprise to overcome our expectations.

I rate PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Incidentally, these days Hollywood filmmakers are more frequently putting one last joke at the end of the credits to reward those viewers who like me sit through the long credit sequences (or to punish those who don't). X-MEN: THE LAST STAND added a major plot twist at the end of the credits. This episode of PIRATES ties up one loose end after the credits. My advice: when the film is over, relax and listen to the music. At home you can fast-scan.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2006 Mark R. Leeper

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