Based on the new box office records set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (or POTC: DMC, which makes it sound like an old-school rapper) in the US, it would seem that everyone has seen this film, making this review redundant. For those who haven’t, I say – Don’t See This Film In The Cinema. If you want to see the movie (and, based on the charming original, it is highly likely), watch it when it comes out on DVD in time for the second sequel (but only watch that in the cinema if you hear wonderful things about it). Because POTC: DMC is overlong, slow, sporadically entertaining and just a little bit silly.
The second film is really the first half of a very long film that you won’t see until 2007. In this one, Captain Jack Sparrow discovers that his debt to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) is now due, a Faustian deal where he promised his soul for 30 years as captain of the Black Pearl. To elude his fate, he begins a search for a key to the dead man’s chest of the title. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Will are imprisoned on their wedding day for helping Jack escape by Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company, with the punishment being death. Will is offered a reprieve for them both if he retrieves Jack’s compass for Beckett, while Elizabeth escapes (having acquired the signed pardon for Jack) and makes her way to the Pearl.
This summarises only the set-up for the long film ahead of you. The full story would make it even worse if you saw the film. The first film was nearly as long, but it never felt it; this sequel was the opposite. There were several times when I was tempted to look at my watch to see how much longer we had to suffer (I didn’t, just in case I found my watch more interesting and wasted my money on the ticket). The first film bounced along, with pace and humour and action. This film lurched from plot point to special FX section to plot point with little of the fun or enjoyment.
It’s not all bad. I still enjoy Depp as Sparrow, even if his character arc in this film seemed out of sync with previous portrayal. Bill Nighy gave some weight to Davy Jones (helped by very impressive CGI). Hollander provided the instantly dislikable quality necessary in the story instigator. There is some fun dotted in among the darkness (both emotionally and literally – there is a lot of rain for the first half, which makes the film the visual polar opposite of the first outing. I’m not denying they had torrential rain, but I’d much rather watch the sunshine than the historically accurate but dull gloomy clouds and water – I live in England, it’s always like that). But it is occasional glimmers rather than an attitude running through the whole event.
Bloom is a walking mannequin as Will Turner, while Knightly is just a large chin (she’s accused of constant pouting, but it is actually her enormous jaw that is the cause), who is easily able to convince the crew of a ship she stows away upon that she is a boy with her flat chest and lack of curves. She was unintentionally funny when she was asked to act alluring towards Depp in one scene. The CGI is impressive but excessive in the crew of the Flying Dutchman, and the Kraken is just silly (and not in a good way). The first film had the undead crew but it was fun and believable. This multi-tentacled behemoth of the deep (while staying true to the old stories of the sea) was just too fantastical and unnecessary, being the equivalent of the muscular henchman of the villain.
The biggest criticism I have about the film is the lack of satisfaction that should come from a film, not the first half of a bigger film. The comparison I read about was Star Wars, with this being their Empire Strikes Back, meaning that there is definitely more to come. However, TESB provided an emotionally satisfying movie experience where you want to know more at the end but still feel that you have seen an entire, proper film. POTC:DMC doesn’t provide that sensation – you see the end and feel cheated; this is more like the end of The Matrix: Reloaded, an annoying cliffhanger, which, in this case, is for a film not released until next year.
The Curse of the Black Pearl satisfied because it provided a great piece of popcorn entertainment from a stupidly unexpected source – a theme park ride. This was just an exercise in maintaining a franchise for the purposes of selling merchandise. This was highlighted most embarrassingly before the film when, dressed in full pirate regalia, a presumably struggling actor came into the theatre to tell us all about the inexplicably linked promotion by Volvo (‘inspired by the film’) for a jeep that has been buried somewhere. It was just awful to watch, making you remember that it’s not about entertainment; it’s all about making money.