Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) Director: Gore Verbinski

★★☆☆☆

Gore Verbinski returns to direct the sequel to Disney’s successful Pirates of the Caribbean film which was originally released in 2003. And once again the film features an all-star cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Tom Hollander, and Bill Nighy among others. It is part one of a two-part story followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) released the following year.

While most of this film can be called a cacophony of chaos, the best parts include the remarkable graphic design, special effects, and triumphant score (Hans Zimmer). Otherwise the plot is a completely scattered and indecipherable mess. The whole point of the movie seems to be to maximize CGI effects in exotic locations over nearly three hours at the sacrifice of anything substantive. The plot, insofar as I can understand it, is as follows. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightly) are set to be married when they are suddenly interrupted and arrested for previously allowing the pirate Captain Jack Sparrow to escape, however Will is offered a deal. His sentence will be muted and he will save Elizabeth if he locates Jack Sparrow’s magical compass which points toward whatever the holder desires most. Meanwhile the real Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) escapes a horrific pirate prison straight out of middle earth. When back aboard his ship the Black Pearl he reveals the map of a key, and he is paid a visit by Will’s father, Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgård), who has become a living part/prisoner of the Flying Dutchman, the ship helmed by the squid-headed Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Bootstrap Bill reminds Jack of a debt he owes to Davy Jones, and that Davy Jones commands the fearsome Kraken monster which follows any man bearing the black spot. Jack looks down at his hand to find the black spot imprinted on his skin.

Next, Jack Sparrow is trapped on an island with cannibals for some reason where he is tracked down by Will. Jack agrees to give Will his compass in exchange for finding the key to the Dead Man’s Chest. They flee the cannibals to Barbados where they learn from a voodoo priestess named Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) about the truth of Davy Jones’s weakness -his heart is locked inside the Dead Man’s Chest. Davy Jones apparently once cut out his still-beating heart following an unexplained failed love affair. They catch up to Davy Jones by summoning the Flying Dutchman. Davy Jones agrees to release Jack of his debt if he enlists 100 souls to take his place on the crew of the Flying Dutchman including Will Turner. Jack agrees and heads to Tortuga to find 99 souls including the disgraced former officer from the first film, Lord Norrington (Tom Hollander), and Elizabeth poses as a stowaway shipman aboard an English vessel, but she devises a ruse to head to Tortuga. Naturally they all convene at Tortuga while the East India Company grows increasingly tyrannical especially toward Elizabeth’s father. At the same time, various antics occur between Will Turner, Bootstrap Bill, and Davy Jones aboard the Flying Dutchman (Will challenges Davy Jones to a game of liar’s dice and steals the key to the Dead Man’s Chest while promising to free his father from the Flying Dutchman), and Will joins up with Jack Sparrow and crew (where a strange romance has been budding between Jack and Elizabeth) while Davy Jones realizes his key has been stolen so he releases the kraken which destroys their ship. In the end, all parties meet on an island called Isla Cruces in a multi-faceted sword fight while the Kraken monster looms (as commanded by Davy Jones). Since Davy Jones can only proceed on land once every ten years his crew track down the Dead Man’s Chest while Lord Norrington runs off with the heart of Davy Jones so he can exact his vengeance on Jack Sparrow at sea.

The story is outrageous and unnecessarily convoluted, but in essence the film ends on a cliffhanger as Jack is kissed by Elizabeth and chained to the boat where he is swallowed and taken down to Davy Jones’s locker by the kraken, Will Turner and the old crew of the Black Pearl (including a surprise return of the resurrected Hector Barbossa from the first film) decide to rescue Jack by going to a mysterious place called “World’s End,” while the stolen heart of Davy Jones is taken by Lord Norrington and brought to the East India Company. I do not envy the writer who had to pitch this script. Apparently the script was unfinished at the time of production and was spontaneously created with story-boards at the same time that filming was happening, and the studio (Disney) was growing nervous about the rising costs of the whole enterprise. Somehow this monstrous project was slopped together with the third installment shortly to follow. Instead of a fun pirate-adventure film, we are given an exhausting farce that leaves the viewer in a state of bewilderment and nausea as a result of over-indulgence. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

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