Monday, February 8, 2010

Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead's Man Chest" a Bloated Corpse

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 146 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Running time: 2 hours, 31 minutes
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images
DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski
WRITERS: Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio (based upon characters created by Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, and Elliot & Rossio and Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean)
PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer
EDITOR: Stephen E. Rivkin and Craig Wood
Academy Award winner


Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Cook, Kevin McNally, David Bailie, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, Tom Hollander, Geoffrey Rush, Naomie Harris

When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl debuted in early July 2003, it had already received mixed reviews from the nation’s major movie critics – many of them deriding the film for having been derived from the Walt Disney theme park ride, “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Disney certainly expected the film to be a hit, but surely they didn’t think it would gross just over $305 million in domestic box office take or go on to do just under $654 million in worldwide business. The Curse of the Black Pearl was the proverbial dumb and silly film that was very well made, a fantasy adventure that caught the imaginations of a broad audience, in particularly that all-important summer demographic – the family. Johnny Depp even earned an Oscar nomination for playing Pirates’ charming rogue of an anti-hero, Captain Jack Sparrow. All in all, this movie delightfully surprised me when I expected so little.

The first of two sequels just opened. Ironically, this new film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, actually turned out to be the un-fun dumb movie that I expected the first to one to be. It’s everything bad summer movies usually are – full of sound and fury signifying nothing, nothing, and nothing again.

Dead Man’s Chest opens to find the first film’s young lovers, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, seems bored with this part) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, ditto), imprisoned for aiding and abetting Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp impersonating a robot impersonating him from the first Pirates movie). The couple’s nemesis is Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), a British official with warrants for their arrests, as well as that of Sparrow, but Beckett’s really after something else. Will makes a deal with Beckett that would free him and Elizabeth, but Will has to find Sparrow and retrieve Sparrow’s apparently enchanted compass for Beckett. Elizabeth later escapes prison with the aid of her father, Governor Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce), and makes her own deal with Beckett to find Sparrow.

Meanwhile, we learn that 13-years ago or so, Sparrow made a deal with cursed sea captain, Davy Jones (played by Bill Nighy with much assistance from CGI). For the cost of his soul, Sparrow got to be captain of a ship, the Black Pearl. Now, Jones, who has an octopus-like head, has returned from the gloomy ocean depths to claim his payment: Sparrow must hand himself over to Jones’ servitude and join the other sea phantoms aboard Jones’ ghostly ship, the Flying Dutchman. Sparrow’s only way out is to give Jones 100 souls in exchange for his one, but Sparrow doesn’t intend to honor even that deal. Sparrow intends to find the dead man’s chest. Buried in some secret location, it holds Davy Jones still-beating heart. The man or woman who possesses it can destroy Jones and/or rule the seas. Sparrow, however, isn’t the only one who wants the treasure of the dead man’s chest, and the fight to find it means that Jack Sparrow may not meet his deadline to appease Davy Jones.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest looks and sounds exactly like the first film, but whereas the first film was fun and filled with the spirit of adventure, Dead Man’s Chest is much darker. Magic and curses play a larger part, and the lead characters: Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann are all in much more peril. That makes for a film rotten with the stench of gloom, doom, and peril, which wouldn’t be bad if that made Dead Man’s Chest a good movie. Like everything else in this flick (acting, directing, shamelessness, etc.), this dark mood lands with resounding thud.

Dead Man’s Chest is noisy and ponderous, a lazy flick that goes nowhere. It begins well enough with an island misadventure – Sparrow, his Black Pearl crew, and Will Turner engaging in a madcap escape from a tribe of cannibals, but that’s the only bit of slapstick from this flick that recalls the original. It has a lot of potential, with many of the scenes and sub-plots ripe to deliver a good time, but ultimately the moviemakers just fumble it away. It’s hard to believe, but after 2½ hours, this movie goes nowhere. Dead Man’s Chest is just a setup for the third film in this franchise, which is currently titled, Pirates of the Caribbean: The World’s End (the second and third films were shot back-to-back). Dead Man’s Chest seems like the chopped-off half of a longer story because it is. I only hope that this next film, scheduled for release Summer 2007, is the better half.

3 of 10

Saturday, July 08, 2006

2007 Academy Awards: 1 win for “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charles Gibson, and Allen Hall); 3 nominations for “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Rick Heinrichs, art director and Cheryl Carasik, set decorator), “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Christopher Boyes, George Watters II), and “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Paul Massey, Christopher Boyes, Lee Orloff)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 1 win for “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charles Gibson, and Allen Hall); and four nominations for costume design, make up/hair, production design, and sound

2007 Golden Globes: 1 nomination for actor-motion picture comedy/musical (Johnny Depp)

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