STUDIO: Walt Disney/Buena Vista
MSRP: $34.98
RUNNING TIME: 150 Minutes

  • Commentary by screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio
  • Bloopers of the Caribbean
  • Charting the Return: A preproduction diary
  • According to Plan: hour-long production documentary
  • Captain Jack: From Head to Toe
  • Mastering the Blade
  • Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend
  • Creating the Kraken
  • Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction
  • Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage
  • Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer’s Photo Diary
  • Pirates on Main Street: The Dead Man’s Chest Premiere
  • Easter Eggs

The Pitch

Pirates of the Caribbean
sensation is one that
still baffles me. How in the hell did that first film turn out so entertaining
and genuinely special? People my age aren’t going to feel this way but Jack
Sparrow is every bit as memorable and inspired as Indiana Jones. How many kids
went as pirates this Halloween? How many adults? Heck, after another viewing of
the film I think he may be a better character than Indy. Is that to say that Pirates
of the Caribbean
is a better film than Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Shit no. Let’s talk about that in 2010 or something. It’s just too early.
I just want to
go on record saying that this franchise ain’t no small potatoes so when this
film came out I really hoped it’d be a sequel that didn’t disappoint.

of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
is one of those sequels.
One of those sequels. Expanding a story intentionally intended to be a ‘one and done’ is tough. Instead of a sequel that is a standalone this installment is the first of two, a gigantic and bloated adventure featuring nearly every character from the first movie and a host of new ones.

The Humans

Johnny Depp. Keira Knightley. Orlando Bloom. Bill Nighy. Stellan Skarsgård. Kevin McNally. Mackenzie Crook. Lee Arenberg. Jack Davenport. Tom Hollander. Naomie Harris.

Almost always funnier than bloopers brought to us by Cingular but falling just short of Nextel’s side-splitting blooper sponsorships.

The Nutshell

Devin’s Theatrical Review.
CHUD Tag Team Review.

A second viewing of Gore Verbinski’s most expensive and complicated film would either sully the ‘Pirates’ franchise in a not good ‘Matrix’ sort of way or allow me to loosen my stranglehold on the considerable disappointment I felt when first viewing the bloated sequel to what is truly one of the most special blockbusters in the past decade. It’s not easy to squander all that goodwill in one fell swoop, especially in a film that’s ambitious and not without considerable good work being done. It’s got a great villain in Davy Jones, terrific conflict between the three leads and some of the newer characters introduced and no shortage of eye-popping effects. Plus, I don’t know if you’re aware… but there are SEA MONSTERS in this. You can make a movie about how much a piece of shit I am and as long as there’s a sea beast in there, chances are I’m going to like it. Dead Man’s Chest [coincidentally my favorite landing site for self pleasure projectiles] isn’t a bad sequel. It’s just so damned much.

Additionally, it’s impossible for the character of Jack Sparrow to be as fresh and totally amazing as he was the first time. The cat’s out of the bag, so there’s always the issue where it sometimes feels like subsequent Jacks are somewhat influenced by audience expectations.

There are a few moments here where I couldn’t help but feel that Johnny Depp was thinking too much and not feeling enough. Of course, he’s still amazing and Jack Sparrow is a character nearly as grounded in acting virtuosity as some of the all-time greats as well as this years one man show, Borat. It’s just a really defeatist chore to recreate a character so impressive. Sorry Johnny!

Depp realizes he had chosen profit participation for The Libertine and not this.

After seeing the film once I was ready to write it off as another franchise squandered while I sat idly by. A second viewing opened a few new doors.

The Lowdown

There is no doubt that there is a lot to like about Gore Verbinski’s film. It’s utterly gorgeous and a visual powerhouse, showcasing the very best in production design and special effects. There are some things in this film that, if you’d shown them to Ray Harryhausen back in the day he’d have considered his creations nonfiction representations of creatures of the wild. Seamless effects are as rare as a four-leaf clover, but I defy anyone to say that Davy Jones is anything less than the best melding of pixels and celluloid thusly created. It’s an example of Hollywood with the cork pulled out and draining every last drop of fluid in the bottle.

It’s that very same reason it’s an example of where the line should be drawn. On the commentary track for the disc, the writers of Shrek [a personal attack on my mortal soul] Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio explain how no one expected sequels to a film based on a once proud Disney ride in a time where pirate movies were only a little more lucrative than films about killer yogurts. Given the enviable task of creating a "money is no object" duo of follow-ups, the writers decided that The Empire Strikes Back was a much better worldview to adapt than say… Another Stakeout.

I can see elements of the hipster’s favorite Star Wars film for sure, but the section where Jack Sparrow is treated as a God by the natives has more in common with Return of the Jedi than that film and this film collects elements form a bevy of genre stalwarts along its way.

Probably my favorite one frame from any film in 2006.

The basic gist of the first sequel is that the lovable Jack Sparrow has made life tough for a lot of folks, not the least of which being Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and his now fiancé Eilzabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). They are in line to be punished for associating with a pirate by the nefarious and slightly poofy Lord Cutler Beckett, a man with apparent ulterior motives involved the Black Pearl‘s Captain. Much more dangerously, Jack owes a debt to the waterlogged icon Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, the film’s secret weapon), one which will either be solved by serving on the barnacle laden crew of the Flying Dutchman for a century or winding up in the salty stool of The Kraken. For me that’s like choosing between Wal-Mart and K-Mart, neither is desirable and both will probably result in the victim spending an unfair amount of time holding thier nose.

Of course, Cutler doesn’t have an "in" to track down Sparrow and the magical goodies he has in his possession. As a result, our bland and erstwhile heroes are sent after him and the chase is on.

These films thankfully don’t mind allowing their characters to have some grit to them and allegiances are as shaky as a Shyamalan handheld shot. The fun is seeing who is going to betray whom at any given time and with the first film’s antagonist/policeman James Norrington (Jack Davenport) in the mix now it is a lovable mixture of characters. Sadly, as much attention has gone into expanding an already meaty cast of characters and while it works like a charm when the pace is breakneck it’s way too much material to injest. When it works, it’s quite good as in a really fun sequence where Jack, Will, and Norrington swordfight in, around, and on top of a giant wooden wheel. If Dead Man’s Chest has one salvation it is in absolutely Swiss precision in the choreography of its action moments.

And Davy Jones and his pet calamari.

"I’m so glad you like my movies, Mr. Overfiend."

Though the special effects and action beats are exemplary, the resulting film comes off as fat and kitchen sink in approach. I understand why they did it and the box office reciepts go a long ways towards critic proofing the film, but a guy like me who enjoys buying and eating his cake can’t help but feel underwhelmed. It’s a commen theme these days, where the marketing engine has revved to redline and left its product in the dust. Who didn’t want to see more of these characters? Whether the intentions were noble or not, this is both an incomplete film [it has more loose ends than The Bunny Ranch] and an overpacked one.

It’s still got that Pirates charm and it has some of the most beautiful moments you’ll see in a summer film (some of the sea monster stuff is jaw-dropping), but unless At World’s End completes the story with lucidity and brevity, I fear that what really could have been the franchise that is this generation’s Indy ends up a very good, but short of greatness par tof film history.

You need to give it a chance, but your head may hurt afterwards.

The Ocular Raven was doing his part to give the Tooth Fairy a run for her money.

The Package

This is a very good DVD. It’s stacked in a way that feels like the studio actually didn’t have a double-dip waiting around the corner. I’m sure they DO, but this is a hearty bit of special features all told and I have to admit that the metallic spheroid sheen on the box makes my lower parts tingle.

There’s a very interesting commentary track by the writers, one that is possibly too sly. There’s a few too many mentions of how they put in all this subtext and teaser stuff and they often make remarks about how they wonder if people with catch it or make statements about how they’ve subverted expectations and a lesser man than me might say that they were on a steed slightly higher than you’d want on a commentary. It’s a good track and I applaud them for trying to make the film as dense and special as they could, but there is nothing wrong with the first film and it seems at times like they may have gone the route of The Matrix by overcomplicating what was already a pretty airtight little package.

There’s bunches of material here, little featurettes and not so little ones. None of them are going to sap a lot of time, but they do a good job of being polished and interesting for the most part. The blooper reel (sponsored by Verizon, a precedent which had better not stick) is mostly extraneous but it is fun to see Johnny Depp be Jack Sparrow, mess up, and either become Johnny Depp for a moment or continue in pirate mode.

It’s also a beautiful transfer, truly a DVD to use as demo material.

I’m proud to have it but I can’t help but with it was an experience as laden with kismet as the first film. I’s still say you’d better buy it. The Kraken is in this film. That alone is reason enough, dammit.

7.4 out of 10