Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's
Second chapters in
trilogies are almost always a bit of a disappointment. They are more
exposition than story, the middle section of a long novel in which
everything is set up but most of the things we are most interested in have
not happened yet.
This has occasionally been
avoided. The Empire Strikes Back had all the problems of the
type, but was able to sidestep them. Godfather II doesn't
really count, because at the time they made it I'm sure they had no idea
that twenty years down the line they'd pull the old story out of mothballs
and nearly wreck the saga. However, more often than not, middle films
are like Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; not interesting enough
for it's own story and in the end just leaving the audience feeling left in
Pirates of the
Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is undoubtedly a disappointment compared to
the original film. It goes on way too long. Characters are
brought back from the original just because it is expected, not because they
are needed. It ends right in the middle of a huge plot development.
Two of the three main characters turn out to have very little to do.
The stunts are bigger and wilder and yet they sometimes feel excessive.
Still, I liked Pirates 2.
Because, no matter what, the movie has one wild card that keeps it
consistently entertaining -- Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Depp's continued offbeat characterization remains as unique a character as
hits the cineplexes in a major motion picture.
Jack still has his surprises. Was it my imagination, but in this
installment was Depp making him seem more fey... read gay... than
previously? (In the immortal words of Helen Seinfeld, "not that
there's anything wrong with that...") However if that was meant, it is
not an important part of the character, just part of the seasoning that Depp
is using to make him more intriguing.
More interesting is that
even more than the last film, we see how much of a selfish, somewhat
cowardly scoundrel that Captain Jack is. Not that this should be a
huge surprise -- he is a pirate, after all -- but Captain Jack spends the
entire running time of the film scheming, backstabbing and letting people
down all to save his hide.
I wish I could say the
other two leads are as interesting. Not that they weren't straight
characters to the Captain in the first film, too, but Orlando Bloom and
Keira Knightley's characters seem particularly useless in this film.
Bloom's character of Will Turner at least gets some intriguing plot
developments -- running across his dead father, dealing with the demon of
the deep -- though the actor's stolid good looks and lifeless acting make it
hard to get too worked up.
Knightley, on the other
hand, is completely abandoned by the story -- literally, her character of
Elizabeth is off screen for huge chunks of time, once at least a half-hour.
It's a waste coming off her Oscar nominated turn in Pride and Prejudice. When she finally does get back in frame, she is given
little to do. She is playing a woman who wants to be a man and fight,
but she does not get the nuance and depth she had in the first film.
So, finally, when she commits her own huge betrayal, it feels a little rote
and a little off-character.
Great Brit actor Bill Nighy
plays the bad guy here, the legendary sea demon Davy Jones. It is
certainly an impressive villain; Davy literally has living tentacles like a
squid growing from his face. However, even this seems a tiny bit off
-- why hire a terrific actor like Nighy and then smother his acting with
makeup and special effects?
Even if the story was a
little too complicated and excessive and it ended on a cliffhanger designed
to get us all back into the cinemas next year when the finale (which was
filmed concurrently with this chapter) comes out, you can't help but like
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Behind the gruff
blockbuster exterior is a quirky heart and a iconically odd central
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Posted: July 3, 2006.