The first movie in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series was an unexpected surprise. I didn’t see it in the theater, but I saw it on DVD and I was surprised how well I enjoyed it. It wasn’t one of the greatest movies of all time but it was sure a lot fun. Needless to say, Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow was fantastic and so much fun. Everyone involved was having such a good time it was easy to forget it was a movie based on a Disneyland ride.
Well, the second in the series “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is now available on DVD. Much like with the first one I did not rush out to the theater to see this. It was the biggest money-making film of 2006 but I did not contribute to that total. I even watched the darn DVD at a friend’s house.
Well, the effects are great. Johnny is still amusing. Everyone seems to be glad to be doing another movie, but they just don’t seem to be having quite as much fun this time around. It is loud. It has great music. The special effects are dazzling and so is the make up. However, this is a very grim movie and I think it makes a few common but crucial key sequel missteps.
The first is that they filmed the second and third ones at the same time which I always feel is a mistake. Rarely does this work as effective filmmaking. The only time I felt it worked was with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It has always been a bad thing every other time. The second one in the series always seems like just a very long and flashy ad for the third movie in the series.
This movie first makes the mistake of assuming everyone who is watching the second one watched the first one until it was completely committed to memory. For those of us who were just casual watchers it was not as if we memorized every single character and what they were doing. Several times throughout this second one I turned toward my friend and asked “was he in the first one?”
This happened with the character of the Commodore. I was so taken with Johnny Depp’s performance in the first movie I completely ignored the entire love story between Will Hunter and Elizabeth and the Commodore guy. I was more likely to remember Depp or Geoffrey Rush’s performance over any of that.
All of the cast are back, as it turns out. But the second mistake they made is adding gravity and getting caught up in the storyline and inventing some kind of long elaborate myth. This was the downfall of the Matrix series. Just like with the Pirates movies the filmmakers had no way of knowing if the first movie was going to be a monster hit so they pulled out all the stops in the first movie and created a huge fun movie. By the time the second one came around the filmmakers felt they had to make the movie deeper and give it more meaning than it really deserves. The second Matrix movie was a crushing disappointment and spent so much time delving into this pretentious boring storyline that all of the fun of the first one was gone.
Thankfully in Dead Man’s Chest Johnny manages to save it. While the others appear to be having fun, Johnny is the only one still holding it all together. The problem is they have concocted a very convoluted and complicated plot. It somehow involves Davy Jones, played brilliantly despite the make up, by Bill Nighy. It has to do with a promise Sparrow made to Jones. However, exactly why Davy Jones has a octopus for a head or why all of his crew are human/sea life creatures I am not entirely sure.
The plots involves someone wanting Sparrow’s magical compass. At the same time Sparrow is trying to find a key which is carried around Jones’ neck which opens a chest that supposedly has Jones’ still-beating heart inside. Oh, and there are other people who want the key and Jones controls a giant squid called a Krakken and Will Hunter discovers his long-thought-dead father on Jones’ ship and it all is a bit of a mish-mosh. This is a movie trying to do a lot this time around and I think it gets a bit muddled. If you are watching this DVD late at night and you are falling asleep and the music doesn’t keep you awake you will be very lost.
There are some spectacular stunts. The make up for the sea creature-human people is spectacular. The action scenes are great and there is a lot of stuff going on to dazzle and overwhelm you. The music is pounding relentlessly. The camerawork is great and there are some truly spectacular shots of these exotic locations. Johnny Depp is just as much fun as Jack Sparrow this time around as he was the first time. Orlando Bloom does what he can with the rather square and humorless Will Hunter and Kiera Knightly is pleasing to the eye. Billy Nighy almost manages to upstage Johnny as Davy Jones and act despite having an octopus on his face.
All of this, of course, succeeds in just setting up the third installment in the trilogy which will be released in 2007. Was this one good enough to make me want to see the third one? I would have to say yes. This was not the case with the second Matrix movie which prevented me from viewing the third one for months. This movie managed to keep enough of its humor and fun to make me enjoy the movie as a whole and make me want to see how it all turns out. Once again, however, I will probably not be standing in line to see the movie in the theaters.
Oh, and I should say there is a very pleasant, funny and nice surprise in the very last scene of the movie and you can probably figure it out if you have seen any stills from the third movie.
If you were not a fan of the first movie this movie will certainly not change your mind about the franchise. If you happen to like the first movie you will probably enjoy this one as well but you may feel, as I do, that a lot of the fun from the first one is missing in this version. If you happen to love action movies you may get lost watching all of the cutesy stuff that is in this movie.