Release Date: July 7, 2007
I often wonder to myself, “Why do people go to the movies? What really brings us back time and time again?” Over the years I have found myself drawn to three different reasons. Some people look to movies to provide some kind of insight, or to provoke deep thoughts. Others enjoy movies as an emotional experience; something that brings out emotions that would otherwise lay hidden beneath the monotony of daily life. But still, I believe that most people go to the movies just to get away from the real world for a while. We want to be able to get lost in a fantastic alternate reality and believe that the characters on screen are more than just figments of someone’s imagination. In fact, we go to the movies to experience films like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Allow me to elaborate…
In 2003, the Producer/Director combination of Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski brought us into the world of Captain Jack Sparrow in The Curse of the Black Pearl. We were instantly sucked in by Johnny Depp‘s charm and charisma as the wayward Captain, and almost overnight the film became Disney’s highest grossing live-action film ever. Three years later we are reintroduced to Captain Sparrow and all of his most memorable friends. In Dead Man’s Chest, Sparrow once again has reunited with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Ms. Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) to take on another one of his, well, mistakes. We come to find out that Sparrow had previously sold his soul to Davy Jones, and now Jones has come to claim payment for the debt. Now Sparrow and friends must race against time and Davy Jones’ gruesome goons to find the Dead Man’s Chest that will unlock the secret to Jones’ power and save them all.
And that is where the fun begins. As with the first Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest is a visual feast of plenty. Gore Verbinski, along with the magicians at ILM have drawn out every detail of Jack Sparrow’s world with unchallenged precision. The combination of beautiful locations and frighteningly realistic graphics makes for a fantastic ride. The most spectacular example are the crew members of Davy Jones’ ship; each goon is meticulously animated to be as equally unique as they are grimy. Such visual effects make a film like this very easy to get lost in, and that is exactly what happens here.
On top of the visual effects, Verbinski has delivered a well paced film. Each action sequence is articulated beautifully with the right mix of built up tension and explosive climactic moments. And just to ensure that we are not put to sleep in between all of these wonderful sequences, there is just the right amount of comic relief mixed in, mostly at the hands of the borderline eccentric performance by Johnny Depp. Depp’s Jack Sparrow should easily go down as one of those memorable characters that Disney likes to throw into our lives. His performance is as natural as it is on-purpose; you almost want to believe that Johnny Depp could really exist in this world as this character. Truly phenomenal, indeed.
Not to be overlooked is the strong support of the cast around Johnny Depp. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom seem to have developed (since the first film) a great chemistry which shines through in their on-screen personas. They add the appropriate amount of romance and drama to offset Depp’s antics, but without being either morose or mushy. And what would a great hero (or anti-hero in the case of Sparrow) story be without a devious and scary villain? Bill Nighy plays the role of Davy Jones to a T; his ability to convey the conflicted emotions of a villain who yearns to feel comes through even beneath layers of make-up an computer generated flesh. His addition to this series is a welcome one, and it creates an even greater balance between good and evil than the first film.
The only disappointment in Dead Man’s Chest does not arise until the very end. And don’t worry, I am not here to spoil it for you. I believe that everyone should see it for themselves and pass judgment accordingly, but the film felt almost like half of a movie. It sort of just drops off, making us thankful that there is going to be a third installment in this now powerhouse movie franchise.
But despite a few shortfalls at the end of its tale, Dead Man’s Chest is a delightful movie theater experience. It has every element that we have come to love from great summer movies of the past; heart-pounding action, expert comedic timing, and characters that we will not soon forget. In short, this is one of those films that you absolutely must experience in the theater, as it is just that much fun.