Monday, July 10, 2006

Review: Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest

The stakes are established within the opening moments of the movie: William Turner is arrested on his wedding day to Elizabeth Swan for assisting in the liberation of Captain Jack Sparrow from the gallows. Like wise, Miss Swan is also arrested for her role in "Curse of the Black Pearl." Both face the gallows, unless, Turner recovers Jack's "broken" compass to the representative of the East India Trading Company. Meanwhile, Captain Jack is on a quest to recover a key that will open "Davey Jones' Locker." As it turns out, the only reason that Jack is a Captain is due to a deal that he made with Davey Jones, that expires after ten years. And now, Jack must pay his end of the bargain, and become part of Davey Jones' crew aboard the Flying Dutchman. By the time it is all over, Jack, William and Elizabeth are all seeking the contents of the Locker, each for their own reason.

This movie has three strikes against it.

The plot for "Dead Man's Chest" is not as straight forward as "Curse of the Black Pearl," and I found it to be more cumbersome and less fun than the original. Don't get me wrong, this movie is chock full of cool stuff: the crew of Davey Jones' Flying Dutchman, the Kraken and Davey Jones himself. I remember watching "Black Pearl" and thinking how much fun the movie was (from start to finish): it was swashbuckling fun! "Black Pearl" became really neat during the sword fight between Jack and William in the blacksmith's shop. Here was the blacksmith's apprentice crossing foils with a nefarious pirate on the run. But this was not just any pirate, it was a pirate who once captained the ship that was directly responsible for the Apprentice being in Port Royale. There was a interconnection between the two male characters that goes beyond what we saw on screen. They did not have to show that Will's father was the one man who stood up for Jack; they did not have to show Jack being stranded the first time on the rum runner's island, and they did not have to show Will's ship being attacked by the crew of the damned.

This leads me to my second stike against "Dead Man's Chest:" they had to show everything, and this made for a long movie.I guess when you are paying $8.00 to get in the door, this should not be a complaint, but, some scenes do not contribute to the overall goal of the movie. The entire cannibal scene, while funny, serves only to reunite Jack and William, but in the end, contributes nothing but an extra thirty minutes to the film. Elizabeth stows away on a ship and uses a dress to impersonate a phantom, only to get to Tortuga, was not needed. In fact, it was not really that funny. It was almost that they did not know what to do with her character until they give her the compass.

The final strike is that this is a "second chapter" movie and has the words "to be continued..." at the end. Ok, not literally, but I am not gonna ruin how they "wrote" those words. These movies can never stand on their own, and that's what I don't like about them. Off the bat, I think of Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings" and "Back to the Future II." I don't include "Empire Strikes Back" because this movie stands on it's own. It completes the story it started of to tell, but, it left threads open. I think what I liked least about Dead Man's Chest was that I did not know that this was going to "be continued." I remember the moment during the film that I though "they can not wrap this up, it's going to be continued." I prefer a self contained story.

Even though I did not like "Dead Man's Chest" as compared to "Curse of the Black Pearl" it is still a cool movie to watch on the big screen. It is funny and fun, just not as much as the first film. I did not like the cliff hanger, but, luckily, I only have to wait to next year to see the conclusion.


Rick said...

hey, chuck - do you think your opinion would've been diff if you'd known there was a coming third part? the things you mentioned as taking too long, i actually thought added to the storytelling, but i knew going in this would end with a "still to come" premise to it.

Chuck said...

Good point... but I have never been a fan of movies that end with "to be continued." I want to see this again (more than I want to see Superman).

I would greatly have preferred two tightly written stories, rather than this story arc that we have.

With that, how they said "to be continued" was pretty darn cool.