Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest

Published: .
Updated: .

Shelly Grimes
Grade: B

Arrrgh, matey: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest leaves landlubbers feeling seasick

Avast, landlubbers: The pirates have returned. The sequel to the 2003 box office smash Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (which grossed more than $600 million worldwide-that's a lot of doubloons) has arrived! But while Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest will surely blow other summer movies out of the water as it pillages and plunders for more box-office booty, it may leave even the biggest buccaneer-buff wanting more.

The film opens with the interrupted wedding ceremony of Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). But instead of a honeymoon, Elizabeth and Will end up in jail, arrested on the charges of helping Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) escape. The two are sentenced to death, and from that point on, theatergoers better have their sea legs ready to try to wade through the plot.

Will is offered a pardon for himself and Elizabeth if he can track down Captain Jack Sparrow and retrieve his compass. (Yes, this is the same compass that didn't point North in the first movie - but if you haven't seen the first movie, don't bother going to this one, because there is no effort by the writers to reexamine anything from Black Pearl.) As Will sets off to find Jack, Elizabeth breaks out of jail and hits the sea to find Will, which generates several subplots that somehow don't quite mesh together in the 2 ½ hour film.

While Will and Elizabeth begin their quests, we learn that Jack has his share of problems as well. It seems that to become captain of the Black Pearl, Jack had to make a deal with Davy Jones (the dreaded ghostly sailor who steals souls, not the founding member of The Monkees). Jones and his band of slimy, barnacle-encrusted half-dead-human/half-fish sailor slaves are out to capture Jack, demanding repayment for the deal in the form of souls. Jack's only hope of survival is finding the legendary locker of Davy Jones, which holds Jones' beating heart. However, subplot after subplot has more characters chasing the heart, although it is never really clear why any of them need it. While the action focused on the heart, the plot didn't really seem to have any.

If there is one thing that is evident, it is that Dead Man's Chest tries to capitalize on the success of Black Pearl; however, it tries too hard to do so. There's plenty of swash buckling and action-packed fight scenes as the characters run from the feared Flying Dutchman, escape a tribe of cannibals and battle each other for Davy Jones' heart. The special effects and graphics, especially the transformation of actor Bill Nighy into octopus-human-sea creature-ghost-thing Davy Jones, are mind-boggling. And it has no shortage of recurring jokes and gags that stem from the first movie. While much darker than the first Pirates film, it is chock-full of quick-witted one-liners and quips from the characters, which sometimes work and sometimes distract from what's happening in the film.

However, after 2 ½ hours of nearly non-stop action and not much storyline to hold it all together, the audience might leave feeling marooned, if not for another scene-stealing performance by Depp, who received an Oscar nomination for his first go at the role of Captain Jack Sparrow. Once again, the Captain gets an "Aye! Aye!" for this performance, even if this film doesn't really allow for much character development. The swaying, befuddled rum-drinking Captain spends much of the film flailing his arms and running away from the fate that is chasing him. He is as amusing as ever, although it seems that he has become slightly less mischievous due to his paranoia of being captured by Davy Jones. Bloom's role as Will Turner could have been developed when he finds that his father, Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), has become a slave to Davy Jones. However, the relationship dynamics are downplayed and the subplot quickly becomes uninteresting. Knightley's role as Elizabeth also leaves much to be desired; through much of the film, it seems that she is just supposed to stand on the sidelines, look pretty and occasionally say or do something feisty.

The movie is fun, but not much else. Many people will probably enjoy this film, and those who don't still have hope that the third movie of the trilogy, set to be released in 2007, will tie up all the loose ends. This movie seems to be more of a set-up for the third film than a stand-alone production, and it certainly sets the stakes high for the third movie. If you enjoyed the first film, the second one is worth a look, but don't set your expectations too high or you might come out of the theater with your buckles swashed.