So, it’s time to review the second of the “Pirates…” films. Er, not much more to say really. You look lovely today, by the way.
The plot is a continuation of the developments in “Curse of the Black Pearl”. Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) are due to be married and Jack (Johnny Depp) is once again captain of the Black Pearl. However, Will and Elizabeth’s wedding is interrupted by new villain in town, Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) who arrests them for aiding and abetting a known pirate. They are sentenced to death if Will doesn’t help Beckett get Jack’s compass from him. The story is way, way too convoluted for its own good. The first one had a simple premise- damsel in distress, needs saving, they do so, there’s a happy ending and drinks all around. Here, it’s hard to keep up with who’s double-crossing who and every character’s motivation and back story. Thing is, we have a lot of new characters (such as Will’s father, Davy Jones, Tia Dalma etc) as well as pretty much every single character from the first one.It’s like a freakin’ Dickens novel with all the quality removed. It’s a shame to see good characters from the original, such as Norrington (Jack Davenport), wasted and given lacklustre lines. I like the idea of having continuity between films, but did we really need the dog with keys in its mouth in this film?
The other curse that plagues sequels is the phrase “bigger and better”. Studio execs get the idea that they need to up the ante in the second one and ignore the actual things that made it popular in the first place. “Dead Man’s Chest” is a textbook example of this- mostly abandoning all the humour and family-friendliness of the first one and replacing it with more explosions and fighting. This film is definitely bigger, with an unforgiving 150 minute runtime, but certainly not better.
Despite having a lot of problems, there is also a lot to like about “Dead Man’s Chest”, I think Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) is fantastic villain and the CGI used to bring him to life is nothing short of incredible and nigh-on photoreal. The crew of the Flying Dutchman are very well designed too, with all sorts of weird ‘n’ wonderful fish/man hybrids on display. In terms of good scenes, there’s the highly impressive Kraken attacks and there’s my personal favourite, the three-way sword fight between Jack, Norrington and Will. It’s superbly choreographed and brilliantly fun. Having the fight continue on a rollaway water wheel is a stroke of genius too. However, even in this great scene there are some irritations. Firstly, when the fight starts on the beach, Elizabeth is incredibly annoying, shrieking about pirates and fighting like there was a danger of somebody giving a flying fuck. I also hate the bit where Pintel and Ragetti (the pirate henchmen from the original) have to explain why the three men are fighting over the chest. If you have to dedicate time to characters explaining why other characters are acting as they are during a fight sequence, you’ve got big problems.
What all of this boils down to is that “Dead Man’s Chest” isn’t a patch on “Curse of the Black Pearl”. It somehow lost its sense of fun in its criminally long runtime. It’s a good film, but after the very decent first one I expected more. Much like Jack Sparrow, the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants.