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Disney hit gold figuratively and literally in 2003 with a successful theme park ride adaptation. (While I loved the movie, please don’t get me started on the whole adding Jack Sparrow to the attractions in Florida and California, thus ruining tradition and memories of childhood…it just hurts too much.) In the world of Hollywood today, we all knew that that success would lead to a franchise. It’s a good thing that the filmmakers seemed to of had the same amount of fun as the audience because they are all back for more. People shouldn’t be misinformed about Dead Man’s Chest either, as it is the first part of a simultaneously shot two sequel set–which one should know if they have turned on a television set these past two years, however, with the grumblings of “I can’t believe I paid 7 bucks for a trailer” by theatergoers after my screening, maybe reality tv really is ruining our youth. Anyways, the film does not have a clear-cut ending, but instead a fantastic cliffhanger for the next installment. Believe me now; if it’s as fun and entertaining as this one, we are in for a fantastic trilogy.

Johnny Depp is back embodying the pirate we love most. All his eccentricities are there along with the sharp wit and sarcasm. He plays off Orlando Bloom’s Will and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth deftly and surely with amusing banter and bickering between the three. There are times when Bloom and Knightley falter, he not really impressing me in much other than the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Kingdom of Heaven and her lapsing in parts where her reaction shots seem like she has broken character and is just slyly smiling at those speaking to her like it was a dead take. Depp however never breaks stride and proves once again to be the best character actor in Hollywood despite everyone’s desire to make him a leading man. His search for the key to the “Dead Man’s Chest” again leads Jack along to save himself from revenge by those he’s betrayed, while also leading him on a path to have an opportunity of redeeming himself and proving his friends’ thin faith that his heart is true as warranted.

The supporting players do a wonderful job throughout the film as well. Stellan Skarsgård is great as “Bootstrap” Bill, Bloom’s Will’s father. Actors like him bring credibility to an adventure movie, as this performance proves. While brief, he plays an integral part to the plot and surely will have more screentime in the third film. Jack Davenport shows some range as a beaten man looking for redemption, a welcome contrast to his confident and regal Commodore Norrington from the Curse of the Black Pearl. It’s a shame he isn’t used more in US cinema as he always gives a good performance; we always have his British work like the seldom seen stateside, but quite good miniseries, “Ultraviolet.” The fight scene between Depp, Davenport, and Bloom is a highlight of the film and never grows old, even when it appears like it should. Naomie Harris also does a nice job as the creepy, otherworldly mystic our band of pirates seek wisdom from. Our real-scenestealer, however, is Bill Nighy as the villain Davy Jones. Even under the massive amounts of CGI animation, we are still given a brilliant performance. All his facial ticks and expressions are apparent and even if one didn’t recognize his voice, you could still tell who is playing him. Anyone who has seen him in Shaun of the Dead and especially Underworld, where he plays his vampire Viktor much the same way as Jones here, will know what I mean.

As far as the effects go, the CGI is almost impeccable. The work done on the crew of the Flying Dutchman is amazing, with each actor having computer work mapped over their bodies. The sea-life textures are realistic and rival the effects work done on the cursed crew from the first film. Even the monstrous Kraken is rendered well. There are instances where it appears a tad cartoonish wrapping it’s tentacles around ships, but the detail and sliminess of them close up is nice. One scene in particular is bad though, where a character towards the end faces the mouth of the monster. Our view is from behind the person looking at the gaping orifice, to see a flat wall. The feel is totally of a green screen as all sense of depth is dissolved. This instance is salvaged almost instantly, though, by the next cut, to a three-quarters view, where we are allowed to see the tentacles and teeth in defined planes of perspective in relation to the character, resulting in one of the best computer generated shots of the movie.

Even though Dead Man’s Chest does get darker and more gruesome than its’ predecessor, director Gore Verbinski and his writing team retain everything from the original that worked and begin to build upon it. While one can’t really judge this film quite yet without seeing the finale that awaits, it is still obvious that it delivers on all its promises. We are treated with an entertaining adventure film with all the trimmings: great acting, great writing, humor, romance, and superbly choreographed swashbucklin’ action. It all culminates with an appropriately surprising cameo appearance, readying us and whetting our appetite for At World’s End in May of next year.

POTC: Dead Man’s Chest 8/10
As comparison: POTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl 8/10

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photography:
[1] Jack Davenport, Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp in Walt Disney Pictures’ Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – 2006
[2] Kevin McNally as Gibbs and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann in Walt Disney Pictures’ Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – 2006

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