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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is the sequel to the surprisingly good film based on the Disneyland amusement-park ride.

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) are both arrested at the beginning of the film - just before their wedding - for their parts in helping Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) escape in the first film. Will is craftily blackmailed into going to find Sparrow and bring back his compass in order to win his freedom. For her part, Elizabeth is smuggled out of jail by her father, and she manages to sneak on board a ship dressed as a man to seek out Will.

Sparrow, meanwhile, is trying to find the chest of Davy Jones, the captain of the Flying Dutchman. Unfortunately, in a dream Sparrow learns that Jones knows what he's up to, and has targeted him and his ship, the Black Pearl, for destruction. Sparrow puts the Pearl aground on a remote island, which is where he and his crew are when Will catches up to them., helping to save them from a rather grisly fate.

Will tells Sparrow what he's after, and Sparrow tells Will that he can have the compass once he helps him find the key and chest of Davy Jones (voice of Bill Nighy under a heap of CGI). Matter become complicated when Jones himself gets involved, leading to a series of stand-offs and bargaining which drives the rest of the film.

Dead Man's Chest, though entertaining, is not as good as its predecessor, and in particular it seems to suffer from sequel-itis in the "make it bigger and flashier" sense, as the special effects are special to the point of being precious, and with very little of the gosh-wow moments of the first film (the skeletal effects in Curse of the Black Pearl were quite neat). Sparrow feels like more of a caricature with little of the depth he had in the first film, and although Depp plays him to the hilt, he ends up being a rather cartoonish figure, with little empathy.

The film is best at setting up stunts and situations, mainly for inventive fight scenes. Sometimes these go over the top (for those who have seen the film, you might find this cartoon to be hilarious), other times they're extremely clever (such as the three-way stand-off reminiscent of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly). The film progressively ups the ante of the game the characters are playing, but eventually it seems like it's gotten to be too much.

Elizabeth is again a rather superficial character, serving as little more than a prize to be won. I suppose Keira Knightly might be a decent actress, but she's given almost nothing to do here, and is completely overshadowed by Depp and Bloom.

I didn't realize going in that the film is the first of two parts, and it ends on a cliffhanger, to be concluded in next year's film, At World's End, so that was rather disappointing. On the other hand, the last scene of the film made me think, "Ah! That's something this film has been sorely lacking!" Hopefully it will (1) end up making sense, and (2) add some needed weight to the next film.

In summary, Dead Man's Chest isn't essential viewing, although it's fun enough. I'll be around for the third film, but I might make it a matinee.

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