Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest review by Mike Long

When I was young, children were simply hyper, and no one was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. But, throughout the 90s, this condition became more prevalent to the point that most everyone in the general population has heard of ADD. And now, apparently Hollywood thinks that everyone has ADD, and that we're going to forget about their product. Yes, sequels have been around forever, but in the past, there would be several years between the films. Now, as soon as a movie is a hit, the producers try to rush the next chapter out as soon as possible. (See the Saw films, which have produce a chapter every year for the past three years.) For the audience, this can be good, as we don't have to strain to remember what happened in the prior films. But, this can also result in movies which are rushed into theaters, sometimes feeling incomplete. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is such a film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest picks up some time after the first movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. As the movie opens, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) are about to be married, but their wedding is interrupted by the arrival of Lord Beckett's (Tom Hollander) troops. Beckett has Will and Elizabeth arrested for aiding and abetting a known pirate. Meanwhile, that pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has risked his life to retrieve information about a mysterious key that he needs. Following this, Jack is visited by a ghost (?) -- Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), a character who we only hear about in the first film -- who informs him that Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) is coming to claim a debt which is owed to him by Jack. Jones is a monstrous half-man/half-sea creature who rules over a crew of man-monsters.

Beckett informs Will that he desires Jack's compass and that if Will can bring it to him, Will and Elizabeth will be pardoned. Will agrees and sets out to find Jack. Not long after, Elizabeth's father (Jonathan Pryce) frees her from jail and she goes after Will. The three are eventually reunited and most band together to outwit Davy Jones and his sea-monster, the Kraken.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is one of those sequels where it feels as if the powers behind the movie said, "Hey, let's take everything that people liked about the first movie and put it in the sequel not once, but twice." The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was by no means subtle, but, besides the fact that it was far too long, it did take its time in opening its bag of tricks. From the outset, Dead Man's Chest is determined to dazzle the audience and all but forces itself upon us. It's got more battle scenes, more monsters, and more icky moments. (When you've seen the Kraken attack one boat, you've seen all that you need to.) Also, all of the main characters from the first film are back, whether they really fit into the story or not. For the entire 2 1/2 hour length of the film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is constantly throwing things at the audience, saying, "Isn't this fun!"

This cacophony appears to be in place to keep the viewer from stopping and thinking too much during this movie. However, I'll be the one to ask, "What in the world is this movie about?" I can't imagine what it was like seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in the theater, because I was watching it at home with the ability to rewind and turn on the subtitles to cut through the thick British accents, and I still didn't know what was going on. Who is Davy Jones? Why does he want Jack? Were these questions even answered in the movie or do I have to wait on the sequel? I do know that Beckett's true motives weren't revealed, but that only serves to make his character all the more annoying. The story in the first film was incredibly convoluted, but at least we understood who everyone was and what their motivations were.

And while Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is determined to please us enough to ignore the flimsy story, it fails to give the audience what we really want. There's no denying that Captain Jack Sparrow was the best part of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and one of the best fictional characters to come along in years -- mostly due to Johnny Depp's performance. Well, Depp is up to the challenge in this sequel, but Jack simply isn't in the film enough. And when he is, he's anxious and brooding. What? In the first film, Jack laughed in the face of danger and in this one, he's constantly worried. How is that fun? I'm normally all for character development, but Jack Sparrow is one character who shouldn't change. If Jack isn't laid-back and slightly mad, what good is he?

I've painted a picture of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest as a worthless movie, but it's not. It's simply disappointing. The movie does contain some exciting scenes and the special effects are great. The film's finale is good and the cliff-hanger ending works quite well. And yet, I expected much more to the sequel to one of the more pleasing blockbuster films of the new millennium. I will certainly see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, but I won't get my hopes up this time.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest buckles its swash on DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks good, but it isn't perfect. The most glaring problem is that the nighttime scenes are a little too dark. The transfer isn't as dark as the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire DVD, but it's pretty dark. After a while, I adjusted to these dark scenes, but during the first one, I was checking the settings on my TV. In contrast, the daytime scenes look fine. The image shows no grain or defects from the source material. The picture is sharp and aside from some moments of video noise, I noted no problems on the image itself. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, but no DTS track as was found on the DVD for the first film. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track doesn't disappoint as it offers superb surround sound and subwoofer effects. The battle scenes and the Kraken attacks really come to life through this audio presentation.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest has come to DVD in two separate releases, a single-disc version and a 2-disc version. The single-disc version only contains two extra features. There is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. (They call this "the writer's commentary" as if there is supposed to be another commentary on the disc). This talk is OK, as the two attempt to give as many details as possible about the making of the movie, but it's also a bit dry as well. The other extra is the 4-minute "Bloopers of the Caribbean", which is sponsored by Verizon. The 2-disc offering features many more extras on the second disc. The disc kicks off with two "making of" featurettes. "Charting the Return" (26 minutes) follows the pre-production of the film (and constantly harps on the point that no script was in place when the process began) and "According to Plan" (63 minutes) examines the shooting of the film. Both of these segments are incredibly detailed, with tons of behind-the-scenes footage and comments from cast and crew. "Captain Jack: From Head to Toe" (27 minutes) examines everything that goes into making Jack who he is and has comments from costumer Penny Rose, property master Kristopher E. Peck and makeup artist Ve Neill. "Mastering the Blade" shows actors Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and Jack Davenport practicing their sword-fighting skills. We get an inside look at the film special effects in both "Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend" (13 minutes) and "Creating the Kraken" (10 minutes). More behind-the-scenes footage abounds with "Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage" (4 minutes) and "Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer's Photo Diary" (5 minutes). The final extras are "Dead Men Tell No Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction" (13 minutes) which shows how the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride was updated, and "Pirates on Main Street -- The Dead Man's Chest Premiere" (4 minutes).

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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