‘Pirates’ sequel sinks

Andrew Gaug


Credit: Steve Schirra

Summer is the prime time for sequels. With follow-ups in the Mission Impossible, X-Men, Fast and the Furious, Garfield and Superman series already under the summer movie season’s belt, arguably the most anticipated – but disappointing – sequel is the second Pirates of the Caribbean.

Though many summer sequels play it safe by giving more of the same, the middle installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy titled Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is an odd one.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images

Directed by Gore Verbinski

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures

Stater rating (out of five): * *

The first movie was a slightly above-average swashbuckler that was propelled by an outstanding, Oscar-nominated performance by Johnny Depp. Depp played the slightly-drunken and always random pirate Captain Jack Sparrow who, along with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), fought undead pirates for the control of a ghost ship called The Black Pearl.

Fast forward to the second movie- Turner and Swann’s wedding day- when they are arrested for assisting Sparrow in his criminal pursuits. Of course the only way to regain their freedom is to find Jack Sparrow.

From that point on, the story gets more complicated. Sparrow is being sought out by Turner while also trying to avoid repaying an old debt to a legendary pirate named Davy Jones. Jones holds a key Sparrow needs to open a treasure chest that will give him his freedom. Also throw in subplots involving Turner being reunited with his father, a shamed ex-Commodore who wants to regain his honor and a giant octopus that destroys ships.

If it sounds confusing, it’s because it is.

The funny, bright tone of the first film is replaced by a very dark, too-complex-for-its-own-good feel. Take the scenes from the first film where the pirates turn into ghosts, and add about six or seven different running plotlines and replace ghosts with aquatic creatures.

With so many running stories, one would think the characters would have a lot to do. Instead, characters like Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann are left to fill some time while Turner catches up with his father and plays a complicated game of dice.

Depp makes the best of his time playing a character who he clearly adores. The spontaneity and goofiness of his role in the first Pirates still exists and continues to be the main thing that holds the movie together. Alongside Depp are funny performances by Mackenzie Cook (BBC’s “The Office”) and Lee Arenberg (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”) as the goofy “R2D2 and C3P0”-like duo Reghetti and Pintel. Bloom also turns in a good performance as a stronger Will Turner, but Knightley looks lost most of the time.

The special effects are just as good as the first – the octopus-faced villain Davy Jones and his henchmen look even more realistic than the ghost pirates of the first film.

For Dead Man’s Chest’s two-and-a-half hour running time, it’s almost painful to see how much time is wasted on plots that didn’t need to be thrown in. The movie’s second half makes a slow crawl to the finish, even with some spectacular fight scenes thrown in.

By summer sequel standards, Pirates tried to think outside the box and become something more than an entertaining blockbuster. Big summer sequels like Spider-Man 2 and The Bourne Supremacy surpassed their previous films by digging deeper into their characters and giving us bigger, more evil villains. Dead Man’s Chest gives us the same characters as the first, but nothing new is learned and the cluttered storylines don’t do much to help flesh them out.

The movie does end on high note, which gives promise to the upcoming sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End for next summer. But if the third one doesn’t tie up the jumbled plot that Dead Man’s Chest leaves, this ship may be better off sunk.

Contact features reporter Andrew Gaug at [email protected].