|Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Collector's Edition)|
|Written by Allan Peach|
|Tuesday, 05 December 2006|
Jack Sparrow and his motley crew of scurvy pirates are back in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” The sequel to 2003’s wonderful “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” tries hard to top its predecessor by upping the ante on special effects, subplots, and screen time devoted to the romantic leads. The result is an entertaining film, but a film that seems to miss much of the magic of the first adventure.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” at 143 minutes in length played like it was only 90 minutes long. “Dead Man’s Chest” at 150 minutes seems to go on forever. The pacing falters mainly because of the time devoted to the elaborate special effects and the added emphasis on the numerous minor characters and subplots of the script. The charm of the original “Pirates” centered mostly on the terrific performances of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa. But in the sequel, Depp’s part is too small, and Rush has no function in the story. When Captain Barbossa finally does make a cameo appearance in “Dead Man’s Chest,” it is a relief to hear that he will be back in “Pirates 3.”
Like Barbossa’s last minute cameo, much of “Dead Man’s Chest” seems to function only as a setup for the next sequel. Tom Hollander’s villainous Lord Cutler Beckett of the East Indian Trading Company is so under-developed that it is easy to forget who he is between his appearances on screen. Similarly, Stellan Skarsgård, as Bootstrap Bill, seems wasted in a few scenes that set up his relationship to Will Turner. It seems obvious that the film makers are introducing these characters to prepare audiences for more developed scenes in “Pirates 3,” but in “Dead Man’s Chest,” these subplots simply slow down the film’s pace.
Add to this, the increased emphasis on the romance between Keira Knightly, as Elizabeth Swann, and Orlando Bloom, as Will Turner, and “Dead Man’s Chest” often grinds to a total halt. This is not to say that the acting is to blame. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” series contains so many great actors that none of them appear long enough to be fully appreciated. Both Knightly and Bloom are terrific as the young lovers, but with powerhouses like Depp, Pryce, and Nighy competing for screen time, watching the “Dead Man’s Chest” is like watching “A Night at the Opera” after seeing “Duck Soup.” Every time the ingénue and her paramour hit the screen, the audience is constantly asking where the real stars are.
The computer-generated imagery (CGI) of “The Black Pearl” at times seemed false. The undead pirates often appeared inappropriately weightless as they moved about the ship. In “Dead Man’s Chest,” the computer graphics are superb. Bill Nighy’s character of Davy Jones was created totally in the computer. Nighy’s body and facial movements were digitized using advanced motion capture technology and the result is a character that is truly half man and half octopus: a sea creature with all of Nighy’s mannerisms and subtly of expression. The performance is amazing, yet all the computers in the world cannot compete with the villainous eccentricity of Geoffrey Rush in “Black Pearl.”
Because there are so many characters, each with their own quest, the plot is often confusing. With magic keys, treasure chests, magic compasses, the Kraken, lost fathers and sons, old and new suitors, a voodoo queen, an undead monkey, cannibals, undead sailors, haunted ships, and the beating heart of Davy Jones, “Dead Man’s Chest” has enough McGuffins for twenty Hitchcock films.
Despite serious flaws, “Dead Man’s Chest” still has moments that are highly entertaining, including a set piece with a giant water wheel. The film has a bit less slapstick than “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” but Verbinski is still very adept at mixing high action and low comedy without the comedy destroying the believability of the action. In this way, the “Pirates” series is reminiscent of Richard Lester’s “Musketeer” trilogy, where slapstick and swordplay merge seamlessly. In the end, the more avid fans of labyrinthine epics like “The Lord of the Rings” may prefer “Dead Man’s Chest” to the simpler “Curse of the Black Pearl,” but with the return of Captain Barbossa and the tying up of the many loose subplots of “Dead Man’s Chest”, “Pirates 3” (currently titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End”), will hopefully be a more focused return to the adventures of Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa.
The two-disc special edition DVD release of “Dead Man’s Chest” contains over five hours of supplementary material. Most of the supplements deal with the technical artistry necessary to create a film of this scope. Especially interesting are interviews with makeup, wardrobe, prop and CGI artists. There is also an interesting short on how the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland was updated to include the characters of the film.
Both the visual and the sound quality of the DVD are excellent, as would be expected of a current blockbuster release. Disc Two is loaded with hidden treasures in the form of DVD Easter eggs. There are at least five of these hidden in secret menu items. I won’t spoil the fun of finding them, but if you eventually give up, going to the internet and searching Google for “Easter Eggs” DVD “Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Man’s Chest” will reveal all.
When purchasing this disc, be aware of the Marketing Pirates of Burbank. The package is so full of advertising that Disney should give you a rebate for your time. Not only are there the endless trailers for Disney releases on the disc, but the DVD package includes a large booklet of advertisements for Jack Sparrow rings, Disney DVDs, popcorn, Bose stereos, pizza, salsa and more. To make matters worse, one of the DVD supplements has an almost endless title telling the viewer that “The Bloopers of the Caribbean,” is “sponsored” by Verizon. As Jack Sparrow would say, “There’s no tellin’ how much bounty is waitin’ for Disney! Savvy?”