Should I Watch..? Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
What's the big deal?
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is an action adventure fantasy film released in 2006 and is the second instalment of the Pirates Of The Caribbean series. The film reunites most of the principal cast from the first film - The Curse Of The Black Pearl - along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski. Filmed concurrently with the third film At World's End, the film sees Will Turner coerced into retrieving Jack Sparrow's compass for the villainous East India Trading Company while Jack himself is preoccupied with escaping the slimy grasp of Davy Jones and the crew of the Flying Dutchman. At the time, it was the most expensive film ever made but it was also the fastest to take more than $1 billion at the global box office despite mixed reviews upon release and remains one of the most successful films of all time.
What's it about?
Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company interrupts the wedding of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann by arresting them for helping known pirate Jack Sparrow escape justice. With Elizabeth imprisoned, Will is persuaded by Beckett to locate and retrieve Jack's magic compass in exchange for pardon letters. Once Will leaves, Governor Swann attempts to join him but is made to swap places with Elizabeth who stows away on another ship to catch up.
Jack, meanwhile, is visited by an apparition of Bootstrap Bill (Will's father) who warns Jack of a debt that he owes to Davy Jones, who now wishes to collect. Fearing Jones and the damned crew of the Flying Dutchman, Jack goes to extreme lengths to protect himself from the mighty Kraken Jones has commandeered. But with Jones and Will on his tail, how long can the famous Jack Sparrow really run for before time runs out on him?
Captain Jack Sparrow
Bootstrap Bill Turner
Lord Cutler Beckett
Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio *
Release Date (UK)
6th July, 2006
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Best Visual Effects
Academy Award Nomination
Best Art Direction, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing
What's to like?
As a purely visual spectacle, there isn't much to touch the quality of Dead Man's Chest. The attention to detail is fantastic with costumes and sets adding to the illusion. But whereas the first film was a bright and light-hearted affair, this plunges the series head-first into a complex web of stories, motivations and characters. The movie's epic feel is certainly a change from the first film and offers something a bit richer than simple good vs bad.
As before, Depp's shameless scene-stealing is used to good effect here as Sparrow. He is constantly the centre of attention although Bloom has a good deal more of the emotional scenes as Will. Opposite, Nighy may be buried beneath mountains of makeup and CG but his performance still shines through and provides the series with arguably its best all-round baddie to date. Jones is a monstrous creation although his crew of mutants and misfits feels a bit of a let-down compared to the crew of the Black Pearl. The humour is still there (albeit reduced in amount) while the action is tightened even further to ludicrous moments such as a three-way sword fight on a free-rolling water mill wheel. Surely, more of what made the first film great is a good thing? Right?
- When the word "Tortuga" is spelt out on the deck of the ship in flame, it is actually written in the trademark Disney font.
- Director Tim Burton, Johnny Depp's frequent collaborator from films like Edward Scissorhands and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, contributed several designs for the crew of the Flying Dutchman.
- Director Vebinski wanted Nighy to perform a Dutch accent but he chose Scottish instead as he can't do a Dutch accent. He later revealed that Scottish TV sitcom Still Game influenced him as he is a big fan of the show and wanted a commanding, authoritative voice .
What's not to like?
The film is simply too dark to enjoy. The world of Davy Jones is a grim place to be and with a lot of the film set on the Flying Dutchman, younger viewers might be put off by the vileness on screen. A case in point is the horrifying Kraken which is a monstrous maw of teeth and tentacles but doesn't fit into this once-comedic series. The humour, where it does come, is pretty much the sole preserve of Depp who relies on Sparrow's trademark goofiness a touch too much. The scenes on the island of cannibals felt like filler to me, despite the improbable action sequences (like the cliff-swinging escape) and excessive eccentricities of Depp's performance.
What else? Well, it fails to clarify exactly how Ragetti and Pintel managed to not only escape custody but also end up on the Black Pearl again after the end of the previous film, Hollander isn't given enough to do as Beckett to make much of an impression and the romance between Bloom and Knightly feels poorly written. And with so many stories and subplots scattered all over the Caribbean, it goes on for far too long. Younger viewers for aren't put off by this scarier and more adult version of the first film will struggle to maintain their attention for as long as this.
Should I watch it?
While not quite as good as buried treasure, Dead Man's Chest is certainly well worth following a map for. It's just as exciting and exhilarating as before but the oppressive darkness of the film might make adults think twice about letting younger viewers loose with it. However, the film is well directed and brilliantly imaginative and with a cliff-hanger to die for, it still provides a perfect platform for Depp's dippy pirate to do his thing.
Great For: fans of the first film, merchandising opportunities, younger viewers looking for mild scares
Not So Great For: depressives, anyone looking for light entertainment, short-haul flights
What else should I watch?
Personally, I reckon Disney struck gold with The Curse Of The Black Pearl which is funnier and more surprising somehow than any of its sequels. The only other film in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series which felt like proper all-round family entertainment was the belated fourth film - On Stranger Tides - which, while not a classic, had the common sense to stop being grown-up and reverts back to a more appropriate tone.
There have been no shortage of pirate movies over the years but trying to find one as good as The Curse Of The Black Pearl is harder than walking the plank in high heels. Excluding any interpretation of Peter Pan or anything involving the Muppets, you'd need to go back to the 1950's for efforts like The Crimson Pirate or Disney's own live-action version of Treasure Island. And while there might not be any pirates in it, Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World has enough salty sea-dogs in it to satisfy the tastes of any landlubber.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox