19 September 2006
  summer in review: pirates of the caribbean, dead man's chest

well it's that time of year again folks, you know the leaves are starting to turn just a little, candy corn starts unexplainably falling into your shopping cart and there is a distinct hint of swashbuckling in the air. that's right everyone, today is


as everybody who knows me is well aware there is nothing i love more than a crusty cutlas-wielding buccaneer with a penchant for wenching, warm casks of ale and anything that might possibly fend off scurvy. i think maybe i was actually a pirate in a past life actually. maybe that's where i got my love of sodomy. and that's why talk like a pirate day is one of my favorite vernacular celebrations.

it's also why i love pirates of the caribbean. . . at least the curse of the black pearl that is. word is still out on dead man's chest.

on the one hand, i see how potc:dmc might have suffered from a subconscious mental antipathy/fear of sequels in general on my part. i mean, i loved the original so much that there was never any chance that the sequel could live up to my expectations. but i did try to keep an open mind. and there were definitely elements of the sequel that i enjoyed. but it still fell very short of the original for me, and, at the very least, i don't think that potc:dmc has any chance of being as memorable a film as its predecessor.

i found that there were a few pretty essential problems with potc:dmc as a whole. first, although this was a pretty lengthy film at two and a half hours, it wasn't long enough to provide enough attention to all of its various story lines, characters and exotic computer-generated locations. there are two main plot arcs in the movie. on one hand, there is arch-pirate jack sparrow's quest to free himself of the eternal bondage he owes evil sea-keeper davy jones. frankly this would have been enough to fill the entire movie. however, there is another parallel story line, that of the east india trading company's quest to defeat davy jones in order to gain unquestioned control of the seas. because there are not one but two complicated stories being told here, all of the things that make the original potc great are given dangerous short shift. most notable in this regard is johnny depp himself, former academy award nominee for the role, who, frankly, in this film is relegated to supporting player. (this is not to say that orlando bloom or keira knightley really gets much more screen time than depp.)

this problem, however, is really just a byproduct of another of the film's larger issues, that it is really just a three hour set up for potc 3: at world's end. you could tell from the beginning that a film this complex was not about to be resolved by its end. in fact, very little is resolved, and the latter of the two story lines in particular is left more or less in its initial stages. this effect is definitely unsatisfying for me, but not so much as i expected it to be. that is, it doesn't even compare to the let down the viewer experiences at the end of the lord of the rings movies.

finally, one other problem plagued this movie from beginning to end: the computer effects upstaged the story itself and those who were telling it. the first potc was special because of its nuanced and interesting performances, especially depp's jack sparrow. sure there are special effects in that one as well, but they only help to enhance the actors' performances. in this film it is difficult to even focus on what the actors are doing because one is just overwhelmed by in-your-face, almost three-dimensional computer effects. they are at times pretty breathtaking, but, unless you are really into that technical stuff then you will be pretty disappointed that this is the centerpiece of the film.

now, as i said before, there were certainly parts of this movie that i did like. depp, even though in a limited role, once again gives a really complex performance in the "lead." it is really intriguing how he makes a really despicable character at once charming, funny, pitiful, admirable and loathsome. but depp actually wasn't my favorite character or performance this time around. that distinction belongs to naomie harris as tia dalma. she is so delightfully creepy, i love it! i really hope she has a much bigger role in the series' next installment. the set and art direction and cinematography was all pretty cool if you could see it through the computer stuff. and it has a really awesome score that you will be singing to yourself for days afterward.

so potc:dmc wasn't a total failure by any means. i enjoyed watching it once even if i don't think it will fall into my monthly dvd viewing schedule like its predecessor. and i am nonetheless really looking forward to the third film in the series. i am anxious to see how it all ends, and i hope that they will correct some of these problems that really bothered me this time around. in the meantime, i will just have to content myself watching the original and doing a little pillaging of my own [matey].
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