Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are back in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
Photo courtesy of BUENA VISTA PUBLICITY
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) flees from cannibals in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
While “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” lacks the spark of genius of its predecessor and doesn’t quite live up to the E-ride expectations of its core fan base, it still manages to pack in several electrifying action sequences and a fair bit of humor making it the summer’s most enjoyable cinematic amusement ride.
Johnny Depp’s idiosyncratic caricature of the self-absorbed Capt. Jack Sparrow fills the sails of this summer blockbuster, reviving it repeatedly from protracted story threads that seem to wander aimlessly during the film’s first hour. The pacing early on is decidedly awkward, as the writers seem determined to fill in back story and reintroduce audiences to the returning cast of characters. The story falters and lacks cohesion.
Eventually, the threads come together, weaving a dark tale somewhat frayed at the edges. The story revolves around Sparrow’s unpaid debt to the tentacle-faced captain of The Flying Dutchman, Davy Jones, exquisitely played by Bill Nighy. Orlando Bloom is back, too, as Will Turner, who has problems of his own: his marriage to Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) has been postponed by authorities with a vested interest in Sparrow’s prized compass. Sparrow seeks a way to weasel out of his unfortunate arrangement while Turner tries to enlist the pirate’s help in saving Swann from the gallows.
Of course, plenty of obstacles stand in their way.
A supernatural nemesis made more menacing by the magicians in special effects, Jones – with an octopus beard and lobster-claw hands – will haunt the nightmares of younger moviegoers for weeks. In fact, most scenes aboard the infamous Flying Dutchman are uncharacteristically horrid and gruesome for a Disney flick – but I know I would have relished them when I was a kid.
Add into the mix an exhilarating slap-stick flight from a nest of famished cannibals, a barroom brawl in the pirates’ port of Tortuga and an extended sword fight between Sparrow, Turner and former Commodore James Norrington (Jack Davenport).
“Dead Man’s Chest” unearths its best treasures in these swashbuckling, rip-roaring action sequences. Even these, though, without Depp’s quirkiness, wouldn’t keep the film afloat.
It isn’t that the rest of the cast is clumsy, either. All the performances are above average to exceptional. But Depp achieves that connection with the audience few actors ever experience. When Jack Sparrow is on screen, he’s practically interacting with the viewer with his knowing nods and winks and his devil-may-care attitude. To illustrate how important Depp is to the role of Jack Sparrow, consider alternative castings. Who else could play the part? Russell Crowe? Not likely. Jim Carrey? Yikes. Tom Cruise? Ewww.
Simply put, Depp carries the film, and director Gore Verbinski understands that. Depp plays Sparrow as he sees fit, and Verbinski has given him wide berth. The actor has acknowledged that the inspiration for Sparrow lies in Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, and there are rumors that Richards will appear in the final installment of the trilogy next year.
Speaking of which, be forewarned: “Dead Man’s Chest” leaves plenty of loose ends. So, while this newest installment continues to pillage summer box offices, the hype for the trilogy’s conclusion is already starting to build.