Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Directed by Gore Verbinski

Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

Starring Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

I had hoped to get through the summer without having to review "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." I had flimsy excuses - global warming, bad airport delays, a death in the family, that kind of thing - but when I looked at this week's studio releases I realized that no excuse would stand up to the pressure. Something needed reviewing, and "Snakes on a Plane" just wasn't going to cut it.

It'll make things easier for us if I just say "Dead Man's Chest," okay? Problem number one with the film is that it depends for its appeal on our memory of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in the first film. His creation was so wonderfully over the top, so witty and self-mocking at the same time as it took itself seriously, that he became one of the great comic characters in film. Here, however, in "Dead Man's Chest," somebody forgot to write in that character. Instead of personality and wit, Depp has to deliver plot lines and explications - elements of the film that should have been given to a minor character, if they were even needed.

Problem number two is that "DMC" consists only of extended scenes of stasis - that is, nothing that happens in them moves the film, or its characters, forward in any way. It opens at the moment when the wedding of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner (Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom) is interrupted by that no-good Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander, whom you remember as the dreadful vicar in "Pride and Prejudice"), who requires that Jack Sparrow be found and returned, or else. Well, it's a start, but then it's only busywork for the next two-and-a-quarter hours. Supposedly comic scenes are extended shamelessly, though we're not laughing; CGI effects are used only to show us that they can be used, whether they add to our interest or not; and so on. And the film, having started in the middle of a story, also ends in the middle. We know that there will be a third episode, and why not, from Disney's point of view; but better writers and a more inventive director would have given "DMC" a little wit and excitement. The film, after all, is about a pirate, a beautiful maiden, and her fiancÚ - the three necessary elements of the genre. Having given them to us, it then forgets to use them in any meaningful way. Instead, it focuses on Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a creature from what might as well be the black lagoon, who isn't either witty or scary.

Worst of all, it takes away from Mr. Depp everything that we bought our tickets to see: his wit, his outrageous actions, his ironic view of his and everyone else's life, and his brilliance at making us believe in him. Indeed, everything he was in the first film is missing here in the second. Is it too much of a stretch to compare Disney with General Motors, which substituted bloat (the Hummer) for imagination (the electric car) and has come close to bankruptcy? Maybe Disney ought to take another look at the script for Part 3.