Dead Man's Chest
- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t has truly been a summer of disappointment. Films like “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “The Break-Up,” “Cars,” “Nacho Libre,” and even “Superman Returns” have all come up short of their expectations, and with the middle of summer rapidly approaching, the future doesn’t look promising. Perhaps this works in favor of Gore Verbinski’s new “Pirates” film, “Dead Man’s Chest,” which will undoubtedly rake in big bucks when it opens in theaters. Why, you ask? Well, because it sets out to do one thing: entertain. And entertain it does, quite well, actually, when it’s not bogged down by an over-complex story with some serious pacing issues.
The follow-up to the 2003 summer blockbuster finds Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in yet another supernatural pickle. No longer cursed as an undead member of the Black Pearl, Jack is soon hunted by the legendary Davy Jones (here played by Bill Nighy, and not the famous Monkee of the same name), an octopus-faced pirate leading an army of fellow Crustaceans to whom Jack owes a blood debt requiring a hundred years of service on his ship, the Flying Dutchman. Never one to give up without a fight, Jack sets out on a mission to recover a chest containing Jones’ heart (yes, a real heart) as barter for his freedom. Whoever controls the heart also controls the sea, and so it makes sense, then, that the British (still not diverted from their plans of world domination) are after the same exact thing; this time led by the formidable Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander).
Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley also return (as swashbuckling couple Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann), as do several other “Pirates” alum like Jack Davenport (as Commodore Norrington), Jonathan Pryce (as Governor Swann), Kevin McNally (as Jack’s first mate), and Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook as the comic relief pirate duo of Pintel and Ragetti. Of course, there are a few new characters as well, including Stellan Skarsgaard as Will’s infamous pirate father Bootstrap Bill (who was briefly mentioned in the first film), Naomie Harris as a mysterious seer, and the Kraken, a fabled sea monster (controlled by Davy Jones) named for the sound that it makes just before it smashes your ship to pieces.
Fans of the series should thank their lucky stars that Johnny Depp didn’t jump ship after the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" exploded at the box office (the actor isn’t very fond of commercial success), because without him, “Dead Man’s Chest” would have been a complete bore to sit through. The character of Jack Sparrow is not only one of the most popular film icons of this generation, but he’s also one of the most enjoyable to watch, and Depp has even more fun reprising the role. The other actors don’t fare quite as well, however. Knightley isn’t as charming as she was in the first film, and Bloom, who has proven himself effective in period pieces such as this, still can’t act his way out of a paper bag, even alongside co-stars like Depp.
Even more disappointing is Bill Nighy as the film’s new villain. The veteran actor never fails to make me laugh (if you haven't seen “Love Actually” or “Shaun of the Dead," go watch them, now ), but his Davy Jones simply isn’t as menacing as Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa. One would think that a majority of Nighy’s performance would be lost in translation after the post-production effects were applied, but the SFX guys have done an incredible job implementing the actor’s emotions onto the tentacles that disguise his face. There’s also a lot more back story to the Jones character that wasn’t explained in this film (like why he ripped out his heart and locked it away in a chest) that will hopefully be explained in the next installment. Because of this, the story feels unfinished by the time that it finally ends, and it brings back memories of seeing “The Fellowship of the Ring” for the first time: “This is it? They’re really going to end it right here? Well, that kinda sucks.”
What makes the abrupt ending even more upsetting is the fact that the film is, quite frankly, far too long for its own good. At roughly 150 minutes in length, "Dead Man's Chest" could have easily been 30 minutes shorter. It really makes you wonder if these guys have ever heard of a magical process called editing. An interesting concept, I know, but sometimes it’s actually considered better for the movie to cut unnecessary shit out. Then again, this isn’t exactly the adventure-comedy that “Curse of the Black Pearl” was, but rather a full blown pirate epic complete with enough overblown set pieces that it actually feels like a theme park ride. Oh right, I almost forgot. It is a theme park ride, and though “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” may not be exactly what fans are expecting, it’s still the perfect candidate for a summer season in desperate need of some quality entertainment.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
You can always expect plenty of special features on the Blu-ray releases for the "Pirates" movies, and "Dead Man's Chest" isn't any different. Along with a screenwriter commentary and blooper reel (both of which appear on the first disc with the movie), the two-disc set also includes a 25-minute pre-production featurette (“Charting the Return”) covering (among other things) the struggle of the writers to complete the script in time, a lengthy production featurette (“According to Plan”) on the actual filming, and a three-part featurette (“Mastering the Blade”) on weapons training for Bloom, Knightley and Davenport. Perhaps the best of the bunch, however, are the two special effects featurettes that focus on the development of Davy Jones as a character (“The Anatomy of Davy Jones”) and the creation of the giant squid monster, the Kraken. Rounding out the extras is a short bit on the bone cage scene (“Fly on the Set”), a behind-the-scenes look at the revisions made to the Disneyland attraction (“Dead Men Tell New Tales”), cast/crew interviews on Captain Jack Sparrow (“From Head to Toe”), a Jerry Bruckheimer production diary, and the Blu-ray exclusive interactive game, "Liar's Dice."