In 2003, Disney produced a movie that would capture the imagination of many who had a love for pirates. Taking the eccentric, but talented acting of Johnny Depp with a few supporting actors that helped mold the story into one adventurous-comedic thrill ride. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl brought the mythology of piracy to life. After the first film had tremendous success it only gave way to array of possibilities to explore in terms of legendary myths about pirates and fictitious relics that followed in the sequels to come.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is the sequel to the 2003 film “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Sometime after the first film, Captain Jack Sparrow desperately looks for a special key. Little does his crew know, but Sparrow owes a debt to Davy Jones, the supernatural ruler of the seas. He’s looking for the key as a way to get out of having to pay his debt. However, the crew figures out their predicament soon enough as the octopus-faced Jones and his creepy crew chase Sparrow down.
Davy Jones isn’t the only one looking for our shady Captain. After having been arrested by the British government for aiding in the escape of Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are blackmailed into helping track down the Captain. Lord Cutler Beckett forces them to find Sparrow and obtain a magical compass from him in exchange for pardons. But who will find Sparrow first?
Dead Man’s Chest, intensifies the original’s horror effects and adds a shade of grey to each character. Deviating from the two young lovers (Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom), director Gore Verbinski keeps pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in the spotlight.
While writers Ted Elliott’s and Terry Rossio’s light tone is present, the sequel is darker and more sinister, particularly Jack, but also another principal character, who sets a cliffhanger in motion that’s designed to lead into the next installment.
It has everything that made the first film so much fun. You have fantastic swordfights, creepy bad guys created with stunning special effects, romance, drama, comedy, and Captain Jack Sparrow in top form. (The first film is also required viewing. You won’t follow what’s going on in this sequel if you didn’t see its predecessor.)
Issue a ration of rum to the other actors who have managed to scrape the barnacles off their performances. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Orlando Bloom as Will, her intended, are finally asked to do more than stand around and look pretty and oh so pleased with themselves. Will meets up with his father Bootstrap Bill (the excellent Stellan Skarsgard) and Elizabeth finds her own inner pirate when she dresses up as a lad to stow away on ship. “I’m looking for the man I love,” she tells Jack, whose retort —”I’m flattered, sir” — has a teasing kinkiness. When hottie fortune teller Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) comes on to Jack and Will with a question — “Do you want to know me?” — Jack shuts down her lascivious smirk with a quick, “They’ll be no knowing here.”
Some similarities is that both movies have a fantastic villain. Davy Jones is destined to be a classic movie bad guy. His look (and that of his henchmen) is utterly stunning. The special effects used for his tentacles are some of the best use of CGI that I’ve seen in a long time. Jones’ tentacles twitch with his mood, he breathes pipe smoke out the sides of his face, and he looks like a true creature from the sea. He’s also more than a two-dimensional bad guy. Once or twice you think he might actually relent and have a heart after all, then he does something truly brutal. Davy Jones ends up being one of the highlights of this summer’s movies.
That being said, Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is the true star of this film. Like in the first movie, he absolutely steals every scene he’s in as the quirky pirate. I think this is the first time Depp has reprised a role from a previous film and I’m certainly glad he did. From the moment he appears on screen, it’s like seeing an old friend again. This time around we get to see even more from him as he struggles between being a despicable pirate and a true hero while stumbling through scenery. This is really Sparrow’s film and he doesn’t disappoint.
The rest of the cast is good, but like in the previous film they’re all in the shadow of Depp as Sparrow. Orlando Bloom gets a fair amount of action as Will Turner. His character also receives an interesting revelation that ups the stakes for him. Keira Knightley is stunning again as Elizabeth Swann. She goes on one particular tirade towards the end of the film that is quite funny, but her final darker moments in the film are what she’ll really be remembered for. Stellan Skarsgård has a great cameo as ‘Bootstrap’ Bill Turner.
“Dead Man’s Chest” also features that great mix of comedy and horror that makes these films such a fun thrill ride. In fact, the slapstick is amplified quite a bit this time around. A scene where the pirates face off with some cannibals (incorrectly placed in the Caribbean) features enough physical comedy to make the Three Stooges proud. But thanks to Depp’s performance it all seems perfectly natural and you’re willing to go along for the ride.
It’s the triumphant rogue in Depp that keeps this pirate ship afloat and actually makes the third voyage (coming next summer) a trip worth booking. The emphasis on Johnny Depp’s nihilistic Jack Sparrow, an amusing diversion the first time, casts the tale under a dark spell, looting this Pirates of the Caribbean of its light comedy and leaving it decidedly more grim than fun.