Thursday, 14 March 2019

Pirates Of The Carribbean - Dead Man’s Chest

Kraken Mad

Pirates Of The Carribbean - 

Dead Man’s Chest
USA 2006 Directed by Gore Verbinski
Disney Blu Ray Zone 2

And so I bravely tread into my rewatch of the second of the movies inspired by the long standing Disneyland ride, Pirates Of The Caribbean - Dead Man’s Chest and... you know what... this is not nearly as dreadful as I remember. I recall finding it fairly dull the first (and last) time I saw it, at the cinema back in 2006 and, although that’s probably still an accurate description of it, in all honesty, it’s by no means the complete disaster that I originally perceived this huge, box office burster to be. I think my extra disappointment with the film probably came for the fact that this was, in no way, a worthy sequel to the fantastic debut in the series (reviewed by me here). Yes, that’s true enough, as it is for all the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies but, back then, I actually thought, until I started watching it, that it may give the first film a run for its money. Alas, it’s not nearly an adequate sequel of a movie but, now that enough water has flowed under the hull, I can at least look at it with less expectations than I did on my initial viewing and find that it’s really not that offensive. Bits of it are even watchable.

Okay, so the film opens with a bit of a shock (good... nothing wrong with that to help get the audience interested) as two of the main protagonists of the first film - Elisabeth Swan, played by Keira Knightley and Will Turner, played by Orlando Bloom - are arrested and awaiting execution for their part in the escape of Johnny Depp’s scallywag rogue Captain Jack Sparrow at the end of the last movie. However, a deal is struck for Turner to find Sparrow and bring to the new Governor of... wherever the heck the characters in these films are all living... Jack’s magical compass. He goes off and, when Elisabeth escapes, she also goes after him.

Meanwhile, Johnny Depp’s opening scene is... well it’s not bad actually. A coffin is thrown into the sea and a bird lands on it and starts knocking on it with it’s beak. After a short while of this a shell flies through the wood of the coffin, fired from inside, eradicating said bird in a quick flurry of black feathers. A hand holding a flintlock pistol pokes through the hole left in the wake of its deadly harbinger and looks around as if it were a periscope. The lid is then lifted from inside, revealing Johnny Depp in his Jack Sparrow form as he then uses the leg of the skeletal corpse he is resting on to start rowing his coffin to his destination. And it really isn’t a bad character intro but... don’t try and compare it to the first film, where Depp’s entrance into the picture was a wake up call to great character entrances the world over. It’s a bit of a shame that this moment here isn’t remotely able to compete with that first intro but, like I said, divorce it from your treasured memories of The Curse Of The Black Pearl and... it’s really not a bad entrance, methinks.

And then everything gets really silly with Depp being struck with ‘the black spot’ (fans of Treasure Island should know that reference) and the main villain of the piece, Davy Jones (Hey, hey!), played by Bill Nighy as a Cthulhu-like squid creature, is after Depp with the similarly mutated crew of the famous Flying Dutchman. He will stop at nothing, including unleashing the fabled Kraken of myth, to track down Jack Sparrow to pay his debt of servitude to him unless, in a new deal, Jack can bring him 100 other souls. Meanwhile, Jack wants to find the key to unlock Davy Jones' chest (I'm guessing that would be Davy Jones locker then?) and free himself from his debt by piercing the living, beating heart of the skipper enclosed within.

And that’s as much of the silly plot that I can remember, to be honest... the rest of the film being one set piece after another while Depp tries to show off his tremendous acting talents with, it has to be said, a script not that worthy of him and with lots of chases played for comedic effect. The fight choreography doesn’t seem quite as good as the first one and, although there is an okayish extended swordfight between three main characters towards the end, it’s really not that swashbuckly and, in what is presumably an attempt by the director to try and top his first installment, the simple pleasures of the cutlasses clashing is mostly abandoned as he tries to find bigger set pieces to make everything seem like it’s delivering a lot more when, as it happens, it’s just delivering more a lot less effectively than the previous time around.

Now there are some nice moments, to be sure, with some great little throwaway jokes which look back to the previous adventure, such as when Jack first realises he is back in the company of Elizabeth Swann and, recalling a certain scene, he whispers to a crewman to “hide the rum”. And the actors are all good in this as they try to work hard and perform wonders with a script that is really not delivering on either the comedy or action in the same way as it did before. There also seem to be some huge story jumps between the two films as we find, for example, what became of Jack Davenport’s character Norrington... which doesn’t really help when it comes to echoing the feel of the original. And then there’s those set pieces...

Gore Verbinski must really like action sequences when everything is out of control and without the heroes able to do too much with the situations they find themselves in. In fact the action feels very repetitive... especially when we have a scene where Jack’s crew are trying to break out of spherical bone cages which they then proceed to roll around without much control when, later on in the film, we have a watermill which comes off its central axle and the three swordfighting characters... Jack, Will and Norrington... are fighting both inside and on top of it as it rolls around the environment, out of control. I was, at one point, wondering when the next inanimate object would somehow break free and start rolling around and causing our heroes more problems.

I also missed the pirate skeletons of the first film. Sure, the writers tried to deliberately hit that same supernatural undercurrent which made the first film a little fresher but, to be honest, fish/squid/what the heck people, while nicely surreal, kind of detracts from the atmosphere in this one, I reckon and I would have much rather they’d taken the supernatural element out of it altogether on this one rather than what they pushed it to here. It just seems very dull, at times.

That being said, the film isn’t all tedious and it still does entertain enough to keep you watching for what is, it has to be said, a monstrously unnecessarily, ginormous two and a half hour running time. One of the things which makes it so watchable, of course, is Hans Zimmer’s wonderful score for the film. Now, I don’t like this score as much as I liked Klaus Badelt’s original but this is still pretty good and it certainly keeps your toes tapping while the action sequences are playing out (and honestly, without the music, the film really would have been pretty much unwatchable). So a big shout out to Hans for this one and, of course, also to the cast of first rate actors who are able to make some of this dialogue sound half credible. This film wouldn’t be a recommendation from me but, of course, since Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man’s Chest was made back to back with the next installment, you need to see this one before you can make sense of the next... especially since this one leaves it on a bit of a cliffhanger. Although, if memory serves, the next one suffers from having a really strong set of opening scenes followed by more of the 'less-than-exciting' shenanigans which marred this one, to an extent. Of course, I’ll only know that for sure by rewatching it so... you know... watch this space.

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