Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest movie poster
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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest movie poster

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Movie Review

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Captain Jack is back, and it's not the triumphant return we were hoping for. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is now in theaters, and while it is making headway to have the biggest three-day opening weekend ever - yes, even ahead of "Spider-Man" - it is certainly no swashbuckling thrill ride.

"Pirates" starts off where the last one left off, with hottie Elizabeth (Kiera Knightley) awaiting her marriage to William (Orlando Bloom), and Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) still on the run. However, England has sent in a new authority to the Caribbean and with it warrants for the two loverbirds' arrest, for aiding in Captain Jack's escape. With no other options, Will agrees to a bargain to steal a compass from Jack - a compass that leads to Davy Jones' chest. He who owns the chest owns the sea. Of course, standing in everyone's way is Davy Jones himself (Bill Nighy), a ruthless creature who rules The Flying Dutchman and a huge creature that can destroy ships within seconds.

The table is set for a successful sequel, but, like most sequels, Gore Verbinski tries to make things bigger and better - but instead just makes things bigger and a lot less enjoyable.

"Dead Man's Chest" is not a bad film per se - the graphics impressive, the acting good and the story decent enough. There are a fair amount of action sequences, and Depp is stellar once again. But - the movie just underwhelms on more than one occasion.

At two and a half hours long, "Dead Man's Chest" is... long. Why a summer action movie that is essentially popcorn fare needs to be two and a half hours long is beyond me, essentially when that movie is literally just the first half of a larger story. Yes, there is another "Pirates" sequel coming to theaters next year, and this movie is a "To be continued" kind of story - it ends with no amazing climax or resolution, and simply rolls the credits at a convenient time. It is extremely difficult to pull off a "To Be Continued" ending with a big screen movie these days, and "Dead Man's Chest" doesn't do the greatest of jobs.

Luckily, since the movie ends halfway through the story, at least that means the suffering could end. Okay, so I didn't suffer that much, but "Dead Man's Chest" is a bit boring, drawn out and dull from beginning to end. This is not the reaction Verbinski was going for, I'm sure, but this is the movie he created.

So what went wrong? Compared to the original, which was surprisingly exciting, funny and entertaining, "Dead Man's Chest" lacks the swashbuckling fun of the first movie. The original created more of a pirate atmosphere, whereas this one just relies on the fact that we already know the characters and apparently no longer need intriguing settings. Most of the settings lack atmosphere, as some of the best parts in the first movie were the towns and ports that were given so much detail.

The original balanced seriousness and humor much better; most of the intentional cheesiness is gone from the film, only to be replaced with scene after scene of graphic-heavy fight sequences that fail to capture the imagination. "Dead Man's Chest" really isn't very funny, and seems to treat itself like a drama more than anything else - even though the movie is about pirates, sea creatures and other silly things.

The villains aren't nearly as captivating as the dead pirates in the first movie - almost entirely CGI animated, they perhaps stretch the imagination a bit too far. Davy Jones makes a pretty decent main bad guy, but Nighy lacks the intensity Geoffrey Rush held in the original.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" has its entertaining moments and overall keeps things rolling along, but is too long and lacks the excitement of the original. This is not a good stage to set for the third movie in the series.

DVD Review (A-)

The good old swashbuckling DVD review. Not my favorite thing to write about, as I usually factor in only two things when considering a DVD purchase: do I own the movie and did I like it? The bonus features are rarely of consequence, although that's not to say when stuck with the choice of deciding between a single disc version and a double disc version packed with features, which usually costs only $2-$3.00 more, I don't opt for the double disc version. And, with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the 2-disc Special Edition DVD set is full of bounty for you to wrap your greedy pirate fingers around.

Dead Man's Chest boasts over 5 hours of special features, but just after two I was overwhelmed - in a good way. Rarely do I sit down and just watch long featurettes, but Dead Man's Chest has some great ones. "Charting the Return" explores the pre-production of the film, as the crew, including director Gore Verbinski, scope out filming locations, calculate budgets and assess how exactly they are going to continue a franchise that was originally meant to be a one-off film. The featurette, along with most of the others, is hardly marketing-oriented in its presentation, which is great because you really get to see just how difficult it is to get a movie - let alone two movies that will each cost upwards of $100 million - off the ground.

The second featurette that is really worth watching is the continuation of this story - "According To Plan", which documents the filming of the first movie. This featurette has Depp, Bloom, Knightley and various other cast and crew members talking about the struggles of the filming, et cetera et cetera. This featurette is over an hour long and seems to walk through every day of production, but is never boring and always full of surprises. From mounting heat to the decimation of a small island to filming on an island that is completely submerged in high tide to hurricanes, the movie had plenty of obstacles.

Other featurettes include in-depth looks at the creation of Davy Jones, which is essentially a special effects documentary, sword fighting and training, and various stunts. Another interesting one examines the updating of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland - I'm happy to see they didn't destroy the ride too much.

If you liked Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest more than I did, you will certainly want to find this 2-disc Special Edition in your stocking this Christmas.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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