10 Years: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

Another day, another sequel. No matter where you turn, there’s always one waiting to be watched. And apparently, it doesn’t even have to be a new release. The only question that seems to matter, with either type of sequel is, do you want a really good one or just one that’s entertaining enough?

The Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures film “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”, still has some of the fun and charm of the original, but is almost completely overshadowed by other aspects of the film, which is never a good thing.

This action adventure film stars Johnny Depp (“Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie”, “Black Mass”), Orlando Bloom (“Romeo and Juliet (2014)”, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”), Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”), Stellan Skarsgard (“Our Kind of Traitor”, “River”), Bill Nighy (“Dad’s Army”, “Norm of the North”), Jack Davenport (“The Good Wife”, “Breathless”), Kevin R. McNally (“The Man Who Knew Infinity”, “Legend”), and Jonathan Pryce (“Woman in Gold”, “Wolf Hall”).

The film was directed by Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, “The Weather Man”) and written by Ted Elliott (“Funny Show Presents: Captain Jokes Parrot”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) and Terry Rossio (“Lovestruck: The Musical”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”).

The film originally opened on July 7, 2006. It would go on to be nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one; one Golden Globe Award; and five BAFTA Awards, winning one among many other nominations and wins.

To state again, another day, another sequel. However, this time, it’s purely because this is the week I spend with the entire “Pirates” franchise. It’s also worth noting, that this film, is what started it all. If you hadn’t figured it out by now through the title, this film is celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary. I couldn’t pass up the chance to revisit this film and the rest in the series, as it’s been many years since I last saw them. Too many as was the case with the previous film. Now that I’ve rectified that, I’m glad, because I learned a lot about what I’d been missing over the past 13 years. For this film, I’m justing learning how much fun this film was and still is. That’s incredible! However, I’ve also discovered that there are some aspects of this film I can’t overlook. I want to, in order to keep the fun and excitement going, but I’d be lying to myself. So, here is day two! What did I think?

I’ve written about numerous film franchises, and along the way (thankfully!), I’ve learned some things. It’s because of this that I’m basically going to be lumping together all the positive things about this film, and really only focus on some of the ones with the most significant change or impact on the film itself.

Okay, so, seeing as the original film was this monster success, and was well done on every level, this film had a lot too live up to. Thankfully, the creative teams, be they returning players or new ones, were on top of it ALL!! They delivered! The costumes, sets, hair and makeup were once again unbelievable. I got into this world quickly, even though I still have no idea how much time has passed. I don’t think it’s something like a year or more, but some time had to have passed, right?

Let’s see, what else!?!? That score! It’s seldom that someone not named John Williams or Michael Giacchino can amaze me with the score they compose, or even the many returning themes, no matter how they’ve been rearranged. This film’s composer, once again, nailed it! Now I seriously need to listening to these soundtracks!

The humor that was brought by Depp and many other characters, was once again on hand. This time though, it felt that many others got a chance to shine in this department. Like before, it made some sequences just more entertaining than they would’ve been otherwise. Think Legolas and Gimli in “The Two Towers”. However, I will say that I’m starting to spot some trends in the humor that if they aren’t handled well, could lead to some pretty obnoxious and tiresome jokes and characters.

Speaking of characters! Loved them still. Depp, like with the comedy, hasn’t managed to annoy me yet, but I felt he was on the verge of it. The others were just fine, or good for the plot, but I couldn’t really find much that showed some vast improvement. Well, Davenport did, but that was kind of for the worse, and because his character’s life had changed in a pretty drastic way. So, when I look at things this way, none of the characters really stood out to me like Knightley and Nighy.

Knightley had seriously grown! Over the course of however much time has passed, she’s changed. She didn’t simply go back to being this posh young woman, but someone who really, truly, especially later on, can take care of herself. Sure she still needed help, but I never thought that I was because she was some kind of damsel or a helpless person. Where’s that type of character today’s films? It’s because of this, and her amazing fighting skills, (no seriously, Knightley must’ve been put through the ringer to prepare for this film), that I love this character and the film a bit more, plus Knightley. I was also amazed at how much she still allowed herself to be moved by emotion. She’s an emotional being, but not because she’s a woman and that’s what women are. No, she understands the ramifications of choices, especially her own. In large part, she allowed for this film to have an emotional center, even if it came at the end of the film.

Nighy, the perfect villain! He usually is. Do we not remember Viktor from “Underworld”? Anyway. He certainly made up for the lack of the charismatic Hector Barbossa, played wonderfully by Rush. I don’t even think I can adequately talk about Nighy’s character. If you’ve seen the film, you know already. I’m just glad they went with Nighy, because he’s always had such specific mannerisms and reactions for his character’s. I can’t even begin thinking of anyone else in this role.

The action was bigger!! It really was. In so many ways. The stunt teams really did their best to give audiences something fresh. On this front, I’d say they succeeded, but with that big drawback I alluded to earlier, which I’ll cover later. The scope, again, was HUGE! And some of the sequences, as became a kind of signature, managed to incorporate humor. Other film’s probably couldn’t have pulled this off. For as long as the three way water wheel sword fight is, plus the other fight scene occurring at the same time, it’s non-stop and had me there for each minute!

Helping bring these big fight sequences to life, largely, is the CGI. The previous film seemed to use CGI, done by those at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), only a little, even if it was highly detailed, but in this film, there was even more. All the crew members of Nighy’s ship, the Flying Dutchman, had to look a certain way. Like sea creatures or in some state of change, which was their penance. I’m not sure if any of these actors got to wear prosthetics, but I’m thinking it was largely CGI. This was unbelievable! My favorite being that of Nighy’s Davey Jones. What was he, some sort of Octopus? So many moving parts and so much detail! I just wanted to touch it! Somehow, 10 years later, it still looks amazing. And of course, the Kraken! This sea creature made the sea battles, in part, especially the one at the end of the film, so much more epic and dangerous! The creature’s huge and very detailed. I don’t recall having any doubts about the level of realism. I’d say only a few, slightly and brief, moments screamed blue screen, but nothing too overwhelming. If it weren’t for this incredible CGI work by ILM, I’d say this film would’ve done much worse and been attacked a lot more by critics. I’d certainly be hating the film right about now.

Now that the bits that I happened to like, which are the ones everyone liked, are out of the way, let’s move on to why I somewhat dislike this film. It certainly makes it harder to enjoy all of the great design and creative work put into it by so many people. I hate that that’s the view I have, but it’s what I got.

The main theme of this one is time. It’s length. The film is too damn long. I’d say, probably by about 20 minutes or so. Did this film need to be this long? No. Could the same plot points and character developments have been met in a shorter time frame, one that showed more control? Yes. I believe that, and I don’t think anyone will ever be able to convince me otherwise. Good luck, you know, if you try.

I honestly, by the half way point, was surprised the film still had so much to get through. It felt like a lot had happened, and yes, a lot did, but at the same time, it didn’t. Not really. I certainly felt that the film was much longer than the actual run time of two hours and thirty minutes. On this, which is interesting, I’m having some trouble pinpointing the why of this. Was it just that there was too much that was unnecessary or that some sequences went on too long? Not just, but part of the reason. The main thing I think about, is pacing, which is ultimately due to the fact that there were so many plots going on, and characters to follow, that the ability to balance them all became too much. Now, the plots were all similar, and the overall plot was clear, but it all didn’t converge and become clearer until close to the end of the film. That’s something else entirely.

Now, I mentioned sequences, which his weird all on its own, but something I can’t shake. I may have talked about how much I enjoyed them, and what the final product looked like and how much work was done, but it doesn’t stop me from coming away thinking things could’ve been shorter. There’s at least two big action sequences, which I enjoyed and had some levels of intensity to them, but they became a bit excessive.

The first one is when Depp, Knightley, Bloom, Davenport, and the two goofball sidekick pirates all get to the island that houses the Dead Man’s Chest. Again, great and funny, and all that, but I stopped caring at some point. I’m not even sure how long the three way sword fight sequence was, or Knightley’s fight for the chest between the sidekick’s or Nighy’s crew was, but after awhile, the only thing that popped into my head, the only word actually, was “repetitive”. So, I just sort of watched. Yes, again, Knightley had some badass moments of sword fighting, which only makes me lover her more and her character! But I just wanted it all to end. Whoever was in charge did well, but we didn’t need. This much of a fight for one chest and its contents.

The next one, came shortly after. It’s the sequence when the Kraken takes on the Black Pearl and her crew. Once more, amazingly done! But, I just couldn’t keep interest the way I’d originally hoped. It just went on and on and on, and more of the same. Yes, you’re trying to hold off a big sea monster, and keep the ship, but at what point is it okay to say enough’s enough? Do all of the people on board need to die in this valiant stand? Eventually, it’s decide that no, they don’t, but a bit too late I’d say. Like with the example above, I lost interest. Only after it ended was I pleased. Which is funny too, as this next example didn’t do any big favors for me.

After the fight with the Kraken, and Depp’s character being dead, we have to mourn and follow everyone for extra time. While this is a fantastic way to showcase the character’s emotional range and breathe more life into them all, especially Knightley, it had it’s drawback. It took too much time to do. I wish I knew how long, but I felt it dragged. Some TV shows can pull of this kind of approach, this slow burn emotional character study, but by this point, I was done. I was spent, and I wanted the film to end. Yes, the film did end. Yes, Rush’s Barbossa came down the stairs in a surprise reveal, but I was thinking more about stretching my legs.

I told you this negative side was overshadowing the good and the fun, didn’t I? Well, if I didn’t, consider yourself told. Some film’s can withstand being lengthy, but this is not one of them. At least for me it isn’t. It really is a pity. What’s also a pity, is that so many filmmakers think audiences want an almost three hour film. They usually don’t, and besides that, most films can’t pull off a runtime of this length. Really what this shows is that some creatives don’t know how to exercise control. That cramming everything into one single film is a must. It isn’t. Mind you, I’m not saying splitting a film in two, or making multiple sequels so you can tell all these stories is necessary either. Control is key. If you plan on being in charge of a long running and good franchise, thinking about how much content you pile in each film, which ultimately affects the length, might be a good place to start. I wonder what the third film in this franchise will be like? Maybe I’ll think about that tomorrow, as I watch it.

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