Empty Chest

by Alan Rapp on July 7, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
  • IMDB: link

pirates-dead-mans-chest-posterPirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest is a perfect example why sequels shouldn’t be made.  There’s nothing original here as the film gives us action scene after action scene, without any real story to hold them together. 

Nor does it help that the film steals plot, characters, scenes and more from Clash of the Titans (the Kracken, the floating coffins), King Kong (the island and its multicultural tribe, the running time), The Return of the Jedi (the Quarren, the Sarlaac, the Ewok village, the ceremonial fires and the exact scene as Han Solo tries to blow the fire out), Raiders of the Lost Ark (the tribe chasing the explorers through the jungle to the safety of the plane, the giant boulder), The Matrix Reloaded (the search for an oracle, the gathering together of forces on an adventure in the next film) and others even including American Gladiators (atlasphere)!

In the next film does Will chop off Medusa’s head, with the sword he pulled from the stone, with the help of a young Asian kid in a baseball cap, in order to turn the Kracken into a statue which crumbles, and the head falls on the beach and ape men contemplate it, as he pulls the still beating heart out of the high preist and throws it into the centrifuge lighting up the world in blue neon light?  If so it would be more original (and entertaining) than what we get here.

As the film opens Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are arrested on their wedding day by the ambitious Cutler Beckett (Tom Hallander) who is willing to trade their freedom for the compass of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).  Cap’n Jack is having his own problems as his debt to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) has come due, but Jack has a plan to find the Dead Man’s Chest and double-cross the Quarren self-proclaimed master of the ocean.

That’s the basic set-up, from there the story dissolves into separate stories as Will finds himself on board Jones’ ship The Flying Dutchman and reuniting with his father Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard).  Jack grounds the Black Pearl on to land and becomes the god of a local tribe (who seem saddened that Kong left for NY and are looking for a new focus for their worship).  And Elizabeth dresses like a man, pretends to be a ghost, and frightens and sweet-talks her way to find Will and Jack.

Sadly by keeping the characters separate for most of the film we don’t get the interaction that brought us so many of the great moments in the first film.  Instead we get the characters fighting natives, or running through jungles, or getting into bar fights.  There’s just too much going on, all of it pointless, to enjoy anything.

The oddest choices seem to be relegating Will and Elizabeth to supporting roles putting the entire film in Cap’n Jack’s hands.  The problem is the character, as charming as he is, only works in how he plays off of other characters.  Left to himself he’s just not much fun to watch.  Also he has gotten so much stupider and cowardly from the first film that he becomes almost impossible to root for.  None of this helps the idiotic subplot of turning the Will/Elizabeth love story into a soap opera love triangle with Jack.

For fans of the first film there are many odd returns and questions that don’t seem to make sense.  Why is the monkey still undead and why is Jack keeping him?  Why are the comic relief two-some of Pintel (Lee Arenberg) and Ragetti (Mackenzie Crook) still alive and free (and why are they no longer gay)?  Many characters like these return from the first film making odd appearances that ring hollow as they seem to only appear because the script calls for them to do so.  I guess screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio thought it was easier to dump characters from the first film out of context here rather than taking the time to actually write new characters that fit this film.

Compared the the first film this one’s a real letdown.  In the best franchises the middle film is the glue that holds the series together, but here it’s obvious the cast is just treading water trying to keep all the characters alive and set-up the next film.  The result is an underwhelming movie without the trademark humor and charm of the first film that sinks to the bottom of the ocean like a stone.  Maybe next year’s sequel will be better, but it will have to be significantly so to justify the 150 minutes of wasted potential in this one.

Other than Keira Knightly’s smile and sheer on-screen presence and the one-joke monkey (the only joke of the film that made me laugh out loud), there’s not much to justify the film’s existence much less a reason for anyone to see it.  When the best you can say about a film is that it was marginally better than Bill Nighy’s other action flick from earlier this year (Underworld Evolution) then you truly realize just how bad a film this really is.

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