Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest suffers from the sequel curse after trading in the treasure box for cinematic value, content, and story. It’s more for the thrill of nothing more than a gazillion of splashy effects for swashbuckling fun and adventure. It loses its anchor by drowning itself to become a pure popcorn flick: all thrills, special effects, and non-stop action. Yet, it virtually offers no cohesive storyline, and worse, it is a story without any form of ending.
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Even though Johnny Depp’s ever-interesting performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow keeps a certain buoyancy to its Disney-chase and carnival fun story, POTC 2 is nothing more than an elaborate 2 1/2-hour long teaser for the third installment. It is such a disappointing treat. The makers of this movie seem to live a pirate’s personality of being shrewd liars misleading the audience to an expensively sprawling affair of long and repetitive quests cut short only by its cliffhanger non-ending. Too bad for a charming franchise’s reputation: it’s like a fully packaged and yet fake rum that doesn’t even leave a hangover from its supposedly exciting theatrical ride.
Amidst the glossy look and masterful special effects courtesy of its well-delivered cinematography and production design, Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest has a cluttered and uncompleted story. Its complicated plot has no ending and everything is left hanging in the worst way. Indeed, fans deserve better than such a convolution.
Such sheer exhibition of fancy adventure stunts and eye confection superficiality is filled with some good laughs; however, it doesn’t compensate with its step backwards especially when compared to the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Its retreat is a shame for the good start of the franchise. It sinks from the weight of its half-baked cargo filled with the sole intention of giving a “carnival ship ride with no further value.” It lacks the true cinematic treasures as it simply goes round and round much like the scene where Sparrow, Norrington (Jack Davenport), and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) battle each other atop a runaway waterwheel. The movie is just running in circles. What is going on is often unclear beyond its continuing physical comedy and entertaining chase scenes.
Depp’s character as Sparrow is an impressive showpiece for the respected actor. More than his good looks, his awesome talent and versatility as a performer is definitely filled with brilliance. He captures the audience with his charm and great performance. He exudes a certain appeal that convinces the people why he is the best man alive to play the role of the hilariously eccentric Capt. Jack Sparrow. He fills every scene with wry humor and sense of comic timing from such a colorful persona. From his “Depp-ian” eccentricity and oddball acting, he effectively delivers great punchlines that make incredible special effects bow down to his unpredictably impressive and interesting character.
The audience gets a too sober performance from Orlando Bloom especially since it is considerably inevitable that he gets compared with Depp. He doesn’t grow much in terms of acting prowess as he delivers his lines and moves in stagnant proportions, very much the way people has seen him in his other epic and period films like Lord of the Rings andKingdom of Heaven. Moreover, among the three (Sparrow, Turner, and Swann), only Turner portrays his character without grayish tones, making him more subdued in a not so positive way. At the very least, he surfaces a bit of his character by having a too straight personality, since this makes him a real different character side-by-side with Jack Sparrow. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann doesn’t do much here but in a deeper inquisition in the movie’s theme and figurative intentions. She is actually a significant character marking as an unofficial center of the story.
Feminists may give due credit to the strong character she portrays except for the blabbers she has done during the last part of the film where she rants like crazy and surprisingly performs tantrums during the swordfight of Sparrow, Turner and Norrington. It totally degrades her persona: nothing but nonsense just to exchange its comic fun effect in a “Disney way.” Stellan Skarsgard as Bootstrap Bill becomes a sympathetic character and his persona tends to be a bit more striking and effective compared to Bill Nighy’s portrayal of Davey Jones.
Nighy seems to have quite a hard time in making his character a bit more enticing, or probably more frightening, probably due to the limitations in his facial and body movements. Jack Davenport as Norrington lacks personality.
Other supporting characters play exaggerations in good light as the various pirates and the character of Tia Dalma played by Naomie Harris render effective portrayals overall.
The good thing about this second Pirates of the Caribbean offer is that it presents a more character-driven story. It could have been a greatly favorable kickoff for this second feature as the audience finds more reason to care and sympathize for the characters. The people see more depth and dimension to the various characters that make them more compelling as well as more human.
The motivations of the characters are clearly defined. The thematic approach in showing various intentions of the characters as reuniting with a loved one, regaining power, saving oneself and saving a loved one give direction to the story. Everyone has a different reason for wanting the heart of Davey Jones. Each one weaves various intentions in a comic approach through the interconnected sword fights and chase scenes primarily involving the major characters.
The symbolisms and complications of broken hearts and the deals with harsh fates become functional elements for the story. The allegories behind the controversial compass of Sparrow (functioning only if the navigator has a clear and pure vision of his/her desire) give an interesting approach as well. The visual execution (through the more visual spectacles, exotic locales, great art direction, impressive sets and props and the entertainingly-rendered action scenes) is quite appealing.
The gradual revealing of the dreaded Kraken was carefully treated with technical and figurative quality. Yet, the entire movie suffers from its poor sense of direction and its non-ending. Nothing happens literally in the end. Everything becomes a question. The ending is more like an opening sequence for Part 3. Moreover, its abrupt prompting to the credits without any reasonable outcome spoils all the good things about it. After all the good investments for the story, it becomes entangled from losing its focus and completely becoming nothing more than a trashy stuff pirated from the franchise’s pirate lore.
Cliffhangers and open-ended stories could be utilized in a more creative fashion. But this one is just too stupid to end everything unended. And this major weakness becomes the “Kraken” of the movie itself. Being merely an overture to a yet another sequel, there is nothing more to treasure except its top-rate CGI and comic action-adventure entertainment.
Director Gore Verbinski makes the audience feel like a child enjoying the chase and fight scenes with its breathtakingly frolicking fun. He manages to pull a blend of dark fantasy, goofy humor and melodrama (including a non-obtrusive love triangle of sorts). But although he displays a remarkable generation of fresh and amusing adventures, he loses touch of why a film should have a clear focus and a justifiable ending. More than making it have a rollickingly good time with the seemingly Spielberg-style action and elegantly staged visuals,Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest goes off course from his intended flair into a simply cartoonish comedy action worth the popcorn.
Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest has every appearance of an epic adventure. But its epic scale suffers without an epic ending. It is like sailing the rough sees towards a battle with a greatly built ship without any weapons whatsoever. It’s an amalgam of many of the modern cinema’s worst tendencies and mainstream filmmaking’s most unfortunate misconceptions for collecting box-office money from the clear fan-base of successful sequels.
The wonderful visual composition and texture (great costumes, magnificent sets, seamless special effects) and plenty of laughs from this studio confection can’t really save what it lacks. It sinks down the abyss with its unfinished voyage to the film can. It moves around in various directions and it takes more than 2 1/2 hours to get to nowhere. If the film has not suppressed its ending, it could have worked. Any movie lasting this long should have a certain outcome, even an open-ended finish, at least.
The quest, with its non-stop fun, merely serves an unfinished feel of escapism with the final treasure chest turning out empty. Though some may find this bearable for the adventure and excitement it gives, it has convincingly lowered its cinematic standards.
The movie isn’t worth the price if you’re in need of substance and not just a simply escapist thrill ride. Overall, no cheers for the “fake-spirited” rum named Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest.