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Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
Director: Gore Verbinski

review by Eric Turowski
Spoiler Alert!
There's action, Johnny Depp prancing and staggering, more action, a lot of spoken exposition that confuses most people, poor dental hygiene, Johnny Depp prancing and staggering... yep, the new Pirates flick hits a screen near you, and judging by the box office returns, it stuck fast.

In this motion picture sequel to Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is pitted against Davy Jones (neither David Bowie nor the Monkee, but Bill Nighy), an octopus-faced captain of the doomed crew who sail the Flying Dutchman and control the monstrous kraken. Okay, that's a lot of legendary stuff to pack into one villain-probably too much, since none of it is related. Jones, for some reason, keeps his heart in a chest (a Dead Man's Chest, they call it, though the heart is still beating), and whoever possesses the chest controls the sea. This means that everyone wants the chest - Sparrow, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the East India Trading Company, other pirates, other sailors - everyone, though for different reasons.

Sparrow has a compass that shows the location of your heart's desire, and with it, he obtains a drawing of a key. Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) have been arrested for aiding Sparrow (in the first film) and sentenced to death. In exchange for the compass Turner is offered a pardon by East India Co. Sparrow has traded his soul to Davy Jones for 13 years as captain of the Black Pearl, and his time is up. He heads for land to avoid Jones' pet kraken.

Sparrow ends up on an island, and made the leader of a tribe of cannibals (who plan to eat the crew, and eventually Sparrow as well), Turner finds the Pearl there, and after a lot of action sequences with large props, they set off to find the Dead Man's Chest. A hottie fortune-teller (Naomie Harris) trades the secret of the chest for the undead monkey (of the first movie). Elizabeth escapes her prison, with the help of her father (Jonathan Pryce), but the rescue is botched and Ms Swann dresses like a boy pirate to search for Sparrow and Turner. On a wrecked ship, Turner meets Turner senior, a doomed crewmember of the Dutchman. Sparrow meets Jones. Much talking ensues, and Sparrow agrees to find 100 souls for Jones in exchange for his own. He has three days, and begins recruiting drunks and cripples from Tortuga, including Elizabeth and former Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) of the first film. Whew!

The crews of the Pearl and Dutchman arrive on the island where the chest is hidden, and there is non-stop action involving more large props, endless sword fighting and chases. And if you're with me so far, you've probably already seen the film. And just maybe, your head is still spinning. And I won't spoil the many twists of the ending. I like the first two movies of this Pirates trilogy well enough, but I can't quite figure out what originally spawned this franchise. When I was a kid in the early 1970s, there were these plastic models available, a series of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' tableaux featuring skeletons clad in pirate togs, rubber bands powering sword action in their arms and whatnot. I remember one skeleton was in the process of being eaten by an alligator. Or was it a crocodile? And what those had to do with the Disneyland attraction, built in the 1950s, I didn't know then, and what the films have to do with the attraction (or what the attraction had to do with anything), I don't know now.

Considering the dearth of pirate movies in the past, oh, 50 years or so [erm, what about The Island (1980), CutThroat Island, and Polanski's Pirates, for starters? -Ed], it's great to see the jolly roger hoisted and piracy on the high seas - although we don't, really. Both Pirates Of The Caribbean flicks are actually cheesy horror films cleverly disguised as pirate movies. But when you think about it, the Black Pearl, the fancy dress, the bad teeth, the cutlasses, they're all but dressing on fairly predictable (though fun) horror themes. The first film was a zombie flick, the current one's, a monster flick featuring squidgy-faced baddies on a ghost ship with a giant sea monster pet. Perhaps, as a change of pace, the next film can feature such lines as 'bear a hand, lads!' or 'hard on the sheets, we're sailing across a broad reach!' or 'set the mains and back the mizzen' or 'prepare to repel all boarders!' or anything having to do with piracy beyond death sentences and letters of marque and reprisal, please!

But let's face it, we like Pirates Of The Caribbean flicks because we get to watch Depp do his Keith Richards impersonation for two and a half hours. Dead Man's Chest gets four stars because it is merely a set-up for the third Pirates movie, to be released in a year. Still, undead monkeys, sea monsters with pet sea monsters, a pirate ship with black sails, and the non-brushing of teeth for decades (or even centuries, argh), is worth the price of admission. Elizabeth seems to want to be a pirate, and sets up a love triangle (square, if you include Norrington) that gets more tangled as the story unfolds. Will seems to forget Elizabeth and just wants to help his dad. Sparrow seems to want to settle down (gasp! Can it be true?). Jones is one lovesick beastie. Avast! Buckle your swash and make sail for the theatre, lads, or you won't understand the third one at all!



Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
Director: Gore Verbinski

review by Debbie Moon

Life in the Caribbean is changing; Will and Elizabeth's wedding is rudely interrupted when they're arrested for consorting with pirates, victims of a crackdown by the East India Company (who seem a little confused about their area of jurisdiction, but we'll let that go...) Meanwhile, Jack Sparrow's search for a mysterious chest is interrupted by a supernatural messenger reminding him that he has a debt to pay to the infamous Davy Jones.

When the East India Company's sinister officer sends Will to retrieve Jack's magical compass, the price of Elizabeth's freedom, it seems that everyone wants the same thing - the source of Davy Jones' mastery over the sea. But with Jack out to save his own skin, washed-up former Commodore Norrington plotting a comeback, and everything from cannibals to giant sea-squid standing in their way, not everyone is going to survive...

It was always going to be difficult to replicate the astounding success of the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, which revived the kiss-of-death pirate genre primarily thanks to Johnny Depp. Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have had a fair crack at reuniting the original cast and broadening the mythology, But, although there are tremendously funny moments, Pirates 2 is overlong, over-complex, and at times, wilfully obtuse.

For example: does the movie start with the drama of a big wedding scene interrupted by arresting officers? No: it starts with Keira Knightley looking pretty in the rain, flashes back to redcoat troops apparently storming a beach, and then returns to our heroine as she finally stomps off to ask why her fianc´┐Ż's been arrested - a question you'd think she would have raised at the time... It's hard to believe they didn't have the budget for a wedding sequence, and while I'm generally in favour of unconventional storytelling, this film is so full of evasions, shortcuts, and hasty explanations of things that happened off-screen that it feels as if it's been clumsily hacked from some far longer epic.

Shoehorning the entire original cast in may be a crowd pleaser, but it leaves no one with sufficient screen time to make an impression. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley still flounder in their clichéd roles, and despite obviously enjoying himself, fishy new nemesis Bill Nighy simply isn't villainous enough. Even the Captain Jack phenomena seems diminished, his charm and danger lost in a confusion of betrayals and double crosses - and no less than four giant squid attacks, leaving us bored with the monster long before its climactic attack on the Black Pearl.

Strangely, all the strongest scenes of the movie take place on land: an extended escape from an island of hungry natives, and an impressively amusing three-way swordfight for possession of the titular chest, remind us of the cheery mayhem this movie aspires to. With dramatic rescues and multiple villains to be defeated in the final movie, there may yet be something to be wrung from this franchise, but this flabby, disorganised middle section doesn't bode well...
Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest



Johnny Depp as Cap'n Jack Sparrow



Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann



we found it first! Pirates of the Caribbean 2



Bill Nighy as monstrous Davy Jones



not the 3 musketeers



never trust a pirate



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