After the success of The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney decided to approve two more Pirates of the Caribbean films. Initially, there were plans to turn the series into a brand new adventure, similar to how the James Bond films are made, but somewhere along the line, the writers decided to instead explore what would happen directly after the events of the first film, with things that happened in that film having an impact on the new one. What resulted is Dead Man’s Chest, the second film in the first Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Following the events of the first film, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is now the captain of the Black Pearl. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) are being told that, for helping Jack escape his hanging, they are to be hanged themselves. In order to avoid this fate, Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) tells Will that he can go get Jack’s compass, and the pair will be granted a full pardon. However, we are told that the Black Pearl was actually resurrected by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) 13 years ago, and the deal Jack made with him to do so means that Jack’s now destined to become part of Jones’ crew. Jack’s noncompliant, so Davy Jones sends his Kraken to take Jack back to the depths where he is supposed to be.
Dead Man’s Chest decides to go the “bigger is better” route in terms of sequel making. It is bigger in terms of almost everything, from the cast, to the action and story, as well as the special effects. Some of them work better than in the previous installment, while some of them detract. The biggest enhancement is by far the improved special effects, something that is definitely welcome after the lackluster skeleton effects from the first film.
The most impressive use of CGI in Dead Man’s Chest is the use on the character of Davy Jones. Jones has tentacles growing out of his face, as well as a claw acting as his left hand. He looks just about as real as possible, and the large amount of CGI used to make Bill Nighy look this way never takes away from the film. He is a believable creature within the universe, and doesn’t ever look out of place. Jones’ Kraken also looks just fine, although not appearing all that often. This is a good thing, as the moments where the Kraken appears wind up acting almost like a horror film. Not seeing the creature in its entirety makes it all the more terrifying.
The story is the main part of the film that takes a big hit with the “bigger is better” mentality. It isn’t all that focused, jumping around from place to place. There seem to be too many characters, without enough time to develop them all. Despite this, the film ends up overstaying its welcome. It’s too long, making the lack of focus easily noticeable. There is also the fact that it ends with a major cliffhanger. I know that they shot this and the next film back-to-back, and that the third film was guaranteed to be made, but the lack of conclusion really left me with a feeling of unease.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a film that tried to be bigger and better, and while this did help it in some aspects, mainly in the special effects, it hindered in many others.
Also missing is the fresh humor from the first film. There are still some funny times to be had, but they are fewer in number, and lower in quality when compared with The Curse of the Black Pearl. They also don’t stay as humorous on repeat viewings, meaning that the film will become less enjoyable seeing it a second time.
Something else that has been improved in the Pirates sequel is the action scenes. They are about the same in number as the first film, but they are bigger and just as fun to watch. There is one in particular that stands out, and while it lasts a good 5 minutes or so, it doesn’t get tiring. It is incredibly fun to watch, just to see some of the crazy things that occur during it.
One thing that I did notice after repeat viewings of Dead Man’s Chest is a large amount of foreshadowing used. You may not see it the first time you see it, or maybe you will, who am I to say? I will say that noticing that makes you appreciate director Gore Verbinski’s film even more than you might if you take it just as a fun action-comedy. You will be impressed at what is foreshadowed for you, and it will make you wonder what other subtleties are hidden in the film.
This is the film in which I began to dislike the characters of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. I thought they were fine in the first film, but having them carry more of the story in this film made them begin to get on my nerves. The main reason the first film was as successful as it was is because of the character of Jack Sparrow. Depp is just as good as he was in the first film, and it actually would have been nice to have more of him and less of the previously mentioned characters. The main newcomer to the cast was Bill Nighy as Davy Jones—and he, thankfully, gets to be an incredibly fun character.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a film that tried to be bigger and better, and while this did help it in some aspects, mainly in the special effects, it hindered in many others. The humor isn’t as funny, and the plot is overbearing and doesn’t allow for any character development. The acting is still fine, and the action scenes are better than ever, but the film just doesn’t quite mesh like the first film.
Conclusion: Bigger isn’t always better, but Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is still a fun time.
Recommendation: If you’re already invested in the characters, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is worth seeing. If you aren’t, just watch the first and be done with the franchise.