Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski, 2006)
It's an inevitable consequence of any Hollywood film that acquires critical and box office success (actually, scrap the critical success part), that film will turn into a franchise giving birth to a sequel or two (or three). The sequels would probably turn out to be crap but at certain instances, the sequels actually entertain. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski, 2003) was originally just a spectacle film. In Disney's efforts to capitalize on its intellectual property without having to shell out cash to some creative brainiac, they decide to make films out of their more popular theme park rides. The Haunted Mansion (Rob Minkoff, 2003) sucked badly leaving a distinct aftertaste that gives me adverse reaction to every other Eddie Murphy film. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, however, was a surprise. It sure is a spectacle but it was also quality entertainment. Above the paper thin plot is a marvelous Keith Richards-inspired performance by Johnny Depp and swashbuckling entertainment we haven't seen from Hollywood in years.
Months later, a sequel, nay, a trilogy is announced and one wonders how the creators would come up with a plot that is enough to fill two other films from what was presented in the original film. The hired writers and researchers came up with a wonderful plan of attack - there's much literature that has been written about pirate lore, why not exhaust it and come up with a plot that is perfectly Hollywood-friendly to earn our mouse factory some money. So there you have it, Jack Sparrow (Depp) returns, looking for a key that opens the lock of the chest that contains the heart of Davey Jones (Bill Nighy). There are other people who'd want to get a hold of that chest, including Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who agreed to deliver such in exchange for their freedom, and a chance to get married without any threats. It just so happens that Davey Jones is the captain of the mythical Flying Dutchman, a finely conceived ship whose crew is composed of souls who traded a few centuries of their soul's earthly existence to Davey Jones and thus, making them look like sea creatures. Aside from the ominous mythical ship and its more ominous crew, Davey Jones commands the Kraken, a gigantic mollusk that can sink any ship that fancies the eye of the devilish captain.
Like its predecessor, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is pure spectacle. The sweep is expanded, several locales are explored and new characters are introduced. That gives Gore Verbinski the chance to up what he already visualized in the first film. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is visually exhausting - the settings are lush, the CGI effects are more polished, the ornaments and the details finer. However, Verbinski seems to be relying to much in his visuals and forgets the fact that the first film's success hinged on Johnny Depp's performance. Johnny Depp, here, has his moments but the glamour, the fast wit, the manly swaggor is exchanged for more visual humor - Jack Sparrow here is a mere cartoon character than an inspired creation of both screenwriters and Depp. In exchange for the lack of Sparrow or his lovable antics, we are given time-consuming plot layout work. That means more of pretty-boy Bloom and his unsatisfying lack of chemistry with British bombshell Knightley. Bloom is given longer screentime, more backstory, more action scenes, to the delight of the females, and to the depression of this reviewer. It just doesn't work. While I acknowledge the fact that the camera loves Bloom, here, he is a hindrance to what the franchise is really about - and that is Depp as Jack Sparrow.
Despite the sorry scarceness of Depp, the abundance of Bloom, and the lack of chemistry between the main characters, I still liked the film. I enjoyed Verbinski's visuals, his ability to control CGI technology without sacrificing true film making - or at least popcorn movie-making. I enjoyed how the hired writers were able to drift the plot into something worthwhile, especially since the first film survived with scarcely an original plot in it. I liked the designs, especially the character design of Davey Jones and his fishy crew. I liked enough of the film to forgive its inconsistencies and its shortcomings. After all, I watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest purely for entertainment, and I did get entertained. No complaints here.