One of the many problems with the way Hollywood makes movies – and probably the base of most of those many other problems – is that it is concerned only with the bottom line. The thinking goes that if a movie is successful then it needs to be aped endlessly, thus giving us our standard formulas that are put out over and over again. It is also true that if a movie is surprisingly successful, seemingly the first thought is to put out a sequel, or hell, make it a trilogy. Such is what happened with Pirates of the Caribbean.
The first Pirates movie was great. It was a refreshing take on the summer blockbuster formula. Johnny Depp was hilarious as the swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow, with a drunken swagger and speech that seemed authentically pirate-like. The supporting cast was strong; the simple love story helped the plot instead of distracting from it. The whole movie was just plain fun, not epic in scope but still very entertaining and worth repeated viewings.
Dead Man’s Chest reverses a large part of what made the first installment of the now three-part Pirates of the Caribbean series great. Instead of a simple, entertaining picture, the newest Pirates seems bloated, boring, and somehow increasingly cliche.
The story put forth in Dead Man’s Chest is simple enough at first. Sparrow is on the high seas, looking for a way to repay his debt to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). The other main characters, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly), soon become involved when a corrupt official of the East India Trading Co. captures them. Turner is then sent out to find and retrieve an item from Sparrow in order to free his beloved Elizabeth. At this point the story is simple and un-convoluted, but soon turns for the worse. Through a series of events all of the characters are now heading to find Davy Jones’ locker. Elizabeth meets up with Sparrow and his crew while Turner finds himself traveling with the damned souls on the Flying Dutchman, among them Davy Jones. In the now central locker lies Davy Jones’ still beating heart, which everyone really wants for a reason the audience never really finds out.
This confusing story is made worse by the standard Hollywood cliche love triangle. Where once the strong love between Will and Elizabeth was completely resolute, the driving factor in both characters’ actions throughout the movie, now, inexplicably, Elizabeth seems to love Sparrow. This concept is never explained; it is just thrown in the mix. All of these problems with the plot lead the movie to feel overly long and at points excruciatingly slow.
There is an upside to Dead Man’s Chest. Its action and special effects are impressive. The Kraken as the mystical sea creature that devours ships whole is especially jaw-dropping and entertaining. The damned souls of Davy Jones’ crew are also visually intriguing, as each one is a human form melded to some type of sea life.
The main problem with Dead Man’s Chest is that at the end of the movie nothing is resolved. In fact the whole movie was just about creating more problems and plot points to add to the next movie. It feels like Dead Man’s Chest was made entirely to make a profit – it is only viable because of the films that surround it in the trilogy. It plays more like an extremely extended trailer for the Pirates movie coming out next summer.