Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest d. Gore Verbinski, 2006

A complete autotelic wrap-up is unnecessary, overbearing even; however, a sequel - in order to work as a movie in its own right - must be able to stand on its own. This one, unfortunately, weebles back and forth between its progenitor and progeny.

The first half of the film is mired in exposition and reference, the former often focusing on the dull Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley - not the infinitely more interesting Johnny Depp - and the latter banking on the stupidity of the audience by force-feeding familiar, and admittedly likeable, bits of the first film in lieu of more substantial and satisfying fare intrinsic to the second. E.g., returning characters, familiar jokes, &c. This isn't inherently bad, but it stands as insufficient when it is all the film has.

Compounding this, this Pirates stands to make the most interesting element of the first film - Captain Jack Sparrow - far less interesting. Banking on the public interest in Sparrow's effeminate androgyny, Depp (or maybe Verbinski?) plays the trait to a fault. What made Sparrow so interesting in the first film was his toeing of the line - he was flamboyant, yes, but he played both sides, embracing the masculinity of a true captain/sword-brandishing pirate. Here, Sparrow is reduced almost entirely to the bumbling fop-marauder that appeared in the first half of the O.G. Pirates, a move that - without the second-half transformation Sparrow went through in The Black Pearl - seems an awful lot like pandering to the K-6 crowd. This is indicative of a severe incongruity in writing (or maybe editing - weren't these two films shot at the same time?!) Both Sparrow and Elizabeth make strange character moves, acting in ways that are never fully justified by their characters. Sparrow, in particular, although a pirate is shown to be a good deal more honorable in the first film than he is portrayed here.

This isn't to say that Dead Man's Chest isn't enjoyable; it's a decent time at the theater, and I still have high hopes for the third installment. However, it is a marked step down from the fantastic action, witty banter, and overwhelming enjoyment of the first film.