A treasure of visuals only a doubloon of sense fills “Pirates” sails
It’s a bloated, unstructured, overly long conquest of style over substance. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is a super-sized, more-is-more version of 2003’s freshly fun original installment. Yet it can’t be faulted for its Herculean effort to give its fans a booty of eye-candy, dashing action sequences, and enough tongue-in-cheek humor to make even cynics feel they got their money’s worth.
Casting Johnny Depp as a pirate was (and remains) an inspired alchemy, and doing so reinvigorates the cool factor of both. Depp is a wonderfully gifted actor whose body of work contains many unconventional films, but before the first “Pirates,” respect for his talent clearly outweighed his mainstream popularity. If you were asked to name any of Depp’s five or six films before “Pirates,” could you? If you come up with “Benny & Joon” or “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” guess again– you’ve skipped over 15 or so movies. On top of that, who can remember any cool pirate-themed movie before 2003?
“Dead Man’s Chest” gives us more Depp as Jack Sparrow, and Depp is still mesmerizing as the sashaying, saucy, devil-may-care Captain who owes a blood debt to the infamous Davy Jones. Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander), purveyor of the imperialistic East India Trading Company, will release prisoner Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) if fianc? Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) brings him the fabled chest which promises unmatched power and world dominion.
A wasted first 45 minutes sets up the thin plot and primes the stage for the occasionally creative action scenes, the best one being a crafty swordfight involving a giant waterwheel. The final 45 minutes of the movie includes multiple potential endings, each of which sucks out any exhilaration and dampens excitement for the next installment. (Most of the third film in the series has already been filmed, with a release expected next summer.)
In between the lackluster beginning and ending are some astonishing visuals, including the tentacle-chinned Jones and his freaky sea creature crew. The sets are richly detailed, and would make Mr. Disney proud. (How inspired was Walt? His Disneyland ride upon which these films are based is going on 40 years old!) The stunningly created full-scale pirate ships are a sight to behold, and the costumes– upwards of 8,000 of them– ought to be remembered come Oscar time.
Outward appearances impress, but except for the few moments when Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) pleas for forgiveness to his son Will, the excesses of the production clearly plunder any trace of this film’s heart and soul.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.