Missing the Fun
I was such a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl that I recommended moviegoers see it more than once. So, of course, I looked forward to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest, hoping to watch another delightful performance from Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, it was all I could do to stay in my seat during the movieís 150-minute running time. I admit the film is appropriately named, because thatís what youíll be staring at for nearly half the movie: dead menís chests.
Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are finally about to be married when they are both arrested and sentenced to hang. Pirate hunter Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company is determined to get rid of Davy Jones. He knows Will and Elizabethís affiliation with Jack Sparrow will reel the pirate in and maybe Jones as well. Lord Beckett sends Will on a bargaining mission, and Elizabeth escapes soon after to hunt for him.
When we left Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in his previous adventure, we thought all was seaworthy in Pirate land. Alas, Captain Jack has a blood debt to pay the spooky octopus-like Jones (Bill Nighy), captain of the ghostly Flying Dutchman. All members of Jonesí crew are part of the undersea undead. Captain Jack knows how to save himself from being doomed to eternal damnation and servitude in the afterlife. He must find the black box containing Jonesí heart and stick a knife through it, eliminating him once and for all. So the hunt is on.
As the film progressed, I was disappointed with each new segment. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Con-Air) is known for his action-packed films and certainly revved up the adventure in The Curse of the Black Pearl. After about an hour into the new movie I felt like I was watching Gilliganís Island meets The Land of the Undead. Captain Jack gets marooned on an island where humorous looking natives canít speak Jackís language but have chosen him as their leader so they can eat him.
Sounds like a Laurel and Hardy spoof, but thereís nothing funny about any of this shtick, and watching Johnny tiptoe around the island like Tiny Tim is even more of a let down. Iím not sure if this was a script problem or something else, since screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio gave us such great fun in the first film. Much of Johnny Deppís inventiveness for his iconoclastic Jack is also missing from this movie. So is the witty and funny dialogue. There were many clever lines in The Black Pearl, but you can count on one hand the humorous banter in Dead Manís Chest. Compounding the frustration of the story are several scenes with Caribbean soothsayer Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) who is supposed to reveal the direction of the plot, but her dialect is so bad her words sound jumbled and incomprehensible.
However, there are a few interesting plot sequences. While trying to carry out his mission and getting involved with Jack in one silly escapade after another, Will finds that his father, Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan SkarsgŚrd), is stuck on the Flying Dutchman. Heís in between this world and the undead, and Will hopes to rescue him.
My biggest objection to this new film relates to the ghouls. While we love seafaring scalawags, the joviality of pirates, and an occasional bad one with all his baggage, itís tiring to view scene after scene with these foul-looking and violent-natured creatures. Costume designer Penny Rose, makeup artist Ve Neill and computer artists did a fantastic job of making these phantom spirits seem real and dreadful, but I wanted fun and adventure instead.
Commenting on his objective for making this film, Johnny Depp said, ďWhat I set out to do was to try and make Captain Jack appeal to little kids as well as the most hardened adult intellectuals.Ē That intention never surfaced here, and the movie certainly should not be viewed by little kids.
In the first Pirates movie Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski awakened an old genre -- the dark, imaginative and highly amusing world of pirates, and moviegoers anxiously awaited the next adventure. Although Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest will probably make a big splash as a summer blockbuster, I was expecting so much more.
(Released by Walt Disney Studios and rated ďPG-13Ē for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.)
Read Diana Saengerís reviews of classic films at http://classicfilm.about.com.