When I first saw the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, my initial reaction was, “I’m scared for this movie”. Those first glimpses of Davy Jones’ crew made me worry that the supernatural elements of the story, kept fairly reasonable in the first movie, would in the second descend into silliness.
Thankfully, the filmmakers managed – somehow – to avoid that fate, and have delivered a fun and terrific movie, albeit not one that greatly exceeds The Curse of the Black Pearl, as some have claimed. Indeed, no matter how cool Jack’s coffin-paddling opening was, nothing the writers do will ever overtake his original entrance, serenely sailing into Port Royal on a rapidly sinking sailboat.
Still, the movie is a worthy sequel to the first. The plot centers on the Chest of the title, which belongs to Davy Jones and contains his heart. The various factions in the movie – including Jack, Will, the now ex-Commodore Norrington, Jones, and new villain and East India Co. man Lord Beckett – all want to get it for various reasons. By the end of the film all seems lost, for Beckett has the heart, the Black Pearl is wrecked, and Jack eaten, by Jones’ Kraken. But all is not lost, for the strange and mystical Tia Dalma, whom Jack has had dealings with in the past, informs the surviving crew that he can be saved by sailing to “the end of the world” – and provides them with a captain to take them there, who turns out to be none other than Captain Barbossa, who everyone thought had died at the end of the first film. This admittedly somewhat convoluted plot – and I left a lot of stuff out – is supported by excellent action sequences, both at sea and on land. The three-way sword fight amongst Jack, Will, and Norrington, especially, is surely one of the best swashbuckling sequences in cinematic history, right up there with Inigo and Wesley’s duel in The Princess Bride, and far exceeding anything Zorro ever did, at least while being played by Antonio Banderas. Ragetti and Pintel are their usual scruffy comic-relief selves, and the special effects – especially in the Kraken sequences – are nearly flawless. Even the aforementioned crewmen of the Flying Dutchman manage to be tragic and menacing rather than ridiculous. In-jokes referencing the first film abound, usually involving either the “why-is-the-rum-gone” scene, or the dog with the keys in its mouth, which itself is one of the more overt references to the theme park ride (In a case of art coming full circle, rumors are that the American park rides will or have been redesigned to include characters from the films. Now, that’s what you call ironic.). All things considered, Dead Man’s Chest is definitely one of the better movies of the summer, and worth seeing at least once.