More so a vehicle to launch the third film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” brings much less to the table than “Curse of the Black Pearl”. Without “Dead Man’s Chest”, however, the third film (“At World’s End”) would not pack as big of a punch. This makes “Dead Man’s Chest” a much less desirable film on its own but makes the trilogy, as a whole, much stronger.
The one thing that “Dead Man’s Chest” keeps consistent is the quality of characters (for the most part). Barbossa’s villainy void is replaced with the captain of the Flying Dutchmen, Davey Jones, played astonishingly by Bill Nighy. Having seen Nighy in previous films, the role of Davey Jones is a huge leap in his career and I had absolutely no idea it was him until the credits, which is a huge testament to the level of his performance. I am always taken aback by the quality that comes out of certain actors being placed into the role of the villain.
Apart from the continued brilliance of the villains, “Dead Man’s Chest” drops the ball in just about every aspect that I loved about the first film. For starters, “Curse of the Black Pearl” never felt (for lack of a better term) Disney. This means, I never felt like I was watching a live action “Peter Pan” (aka “Hook”). The first film presented itself in an adult manner, with extensive dialogue and fight scenes fit for a blockbuster action film. “Dead Man’s Chest” loses all of that.
The dialogue is childish, with Jack Sparrow appearing to be a grade school in the sand box, spouting dialogue like “I’ve got a jar of dirt, I’ve got a jar of dirt” in a taunting, childish way. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the writers completely take away the sense that deep down Sparrow actually knows what he is doing and makes him no match for even Elizabeth Swan. Sparrow is essentially helpless and is constantly running away, from either Davey Jones or the cannibals or the Kracken.
The sword fight scenes scream Disney as well. Eventually in the hunt for Davey Jones’s heart, Jack Sparrow, William Turner, and the down-and-out James Norrington (no longer Commodore) face off in a battle over the heart itself. With Elizabeth Swan pouting like a child and the “comic relief” crew of Pintel and Ragetti making off with the chest, the three main men sword fight down the beach. What results is one of the worst, most unrealistic sword fights that I feel Disney could have possibly come up with. On top of a water wheel that breaks off, Norrington and Turner battle to what would be the death had this not been a Disney film, balancing on the wheel as it rolls. Now even if I could suspend my disbelief for this, they eventually fall inside and roll down the hill in pure slapstick comedy style.
Meanwhile, the childish Jack Sparrow is slapsticking his way to getting the key which he keeps losing and upon getting stuck in the wheel, you eventually just quit carrying about him. If this were Charlie Chaplin, I might care about this portion of the film, but as it is not, I could have cared less. Though I feel this entire sequence was meant to be utterly ridiculous, it caused for me to lose respect for the entire venture.
There are gorgeous scenes in this film, but they all appear irrelevant when the story suffers so much. Comparing it to the original film, there really is no comparison. The second film remains childish regardless of how many stellar shots or performances are present. Without a compelling and realistic story, the film is lost on me.
The action sequences scream Disney and the writers appear to be bent on completely emasculating Capt. Jack Sparrow throughout the entire film with childish dialogue and no sense of direction. I do love the new villain of Davey Jones and am astonished at the performance by Bill Nighy. “Dead Man’s Chest” definitely leaves much to be desired, but in the big scheme of the franchise, I can overlook the bad parts. However, for a stand alone film, it just does not work. Even if you do not like the film, the last few minutes of the film remains my favorite part of “Dead Man’s Chest” and truly clinches you for the final leap into the last film of the original trilogy.
[Directed by Gore Verbinski] [PG-13] [151 min] [7 July 2006]