The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

There is a moment in the original smash “Pirates” movie which, for me, defines the film: undead pirates walking beneath the hull of their ship, sneaking up on our unsuspecting heroes.  The scene is beautifully shot and framed, takes maximum and creative advantage of their status as zombies, and is just flat out beautifully composed and presented by the director, Gor Verbinski.  That movie is about five times better than the best I was hoping for.  After all, it’s just a movie based on a theme park ride.  How good could it be?  It was terrific.

And unfortunately, “Dead Man’s Chest,” the continuation of the saga of Captain Jack Sparrow, is not.  Oh, it’s good.  Occasionally, it’s terrific in its own kinetic way.  But this time around, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of his arch pirate Sparrow isn’t quite as surprising.  The 2003 film was absolutely elevated by an unexpected and wholly original portrayal. Sparrow was rogue, comic  relief, hero, scoundrel…and such a mincer one suspected he’d gotten his pirate training as cabin boy on a very un-Disney cruise indeed.  But here, they act as if this is an episode of the Captain Jack television show, with no need to earn our respect, love, or attention.  Plunged into a tale of how his former friends Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) are forced to track Sparrow down to save their hides and marriage, all of these fine actors thrash about to little real effect. 

There are sights and sounds to thrill the eye, stunts to make the bottom of your stomach drop out, and yo-ho-ho pirate action, but I felt like I was at a thrill ride, not a movie.  This was how I expected to feel the first time, and it wasn’t quite enough.  So…it’s fun (and ends on a pretty darned good cliff-hanger reminiscent of “The empire Strikes Back”) and I left the theater grinning.  But there is a hazy sense of geography (where are these islands?  How close together are these ships?  People travel from one place to another, are lost and found and transported with odd rapidity.  Ships turn 90 degrees in seconds in denial of the basic laws of physics…it’s kind of a mess, really) and let’s not even get into the non-existent character arcs.  Well, with the exception of Swann, who discovers that she is as attracted to Sparrow as we are. 

But attraction isn’t enough to make a relationship, and spectacle isn’t enough to make a movie.  I’m going to give this one a “B” in hopes that the second half makes all of this fit together with unexpected elegance.  We can hope.


Caribbean Cruise said...

The movie is fantastic. I watched all the parts with big enjoyment. After the first movie in 2006 me and my wife decided to take a cruise vacation to Caribbean thorough ECT. There are many wonderful views there exactly like in the movie.

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