Based on the massive popularity of the first installment, "Piates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl," in 2003, it was only natural for a sequel to this Disney swashbuckler to make its way to theatres.
After an adequate amount of time, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," starring most of the last movie's original cast, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Jonathan Pryce, etc. has hit the big screen.
And while the visuals, special effects and sets are extraordinary, the film seems to drag on searching for coherence in a meandering plot line which drifts all over the South Seas. It's not that I did not like this picture, or enjoy certain parts immensely, it's simply another case of the first one being better, as well as easier to understand.
"Dead Man's Chest" picks up basically where the first left off, but Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightly) are arrested on Port Royale by Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander, "Pride & Prejudice," "The Libertine"). The charge: Conspiring to aid in the escape of noted pirate, Capt. Jack Sparrow (Depp). The possible penalty: Death by hanging (the British answer to everything).
Cutler gives Turner an option, however. Find Sparrow and retrieve a certain key to a certain treasure chest, and all will be forgiven. Meanwhile, Sparrow and his motley crew have beached on a remote South Pacific island (thanks to Jack's non-functioning compass) inhabited by cannibals. While the crew is imprisoned in huge, round, wooden cages suspended from high cliffs, Sparrow is treated like a demigod.
After a series of goofy, but funny chases, the fun cannot last here, though, and with Turner's help, most of the men (and Jack) beat a hasty retreat from the venue. A side trip to visit what seems like a voodoo conjurer, Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris, "A Cock & Bull Story"), sheds a little more light on things. A key such as Beckett described to Turner does indeed exist; and it opens the chest which contains the still-living heart of Davy Jones, the mythical sailor punished for all eternity for falling in love with a woman (or something to that effect).
Shortly thereafter, the Black Pearl is overtaken by the ghostly Flying Dutchman, captained by none other than the squid-like Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," "The Constant Gardner"), and manned by a doomed crew now more fish and barnacle than man. Turner is kept on board while Jack, to pay off some debt to Jones, is sent to bring 100 souls to Jones as a ransom. On this ship, Turner also meets his doomed father, "Bootstrap" Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgard, "King Arthur," "Exocist: The Beginning").
Jones, who keeps the key on his slimy person, also has sway over a huge sea monster, the Kraken, which can destroy a vessel and its crew in a matter of moments. The special effects in these sequences are terrific.
Meanwhile, Swann has stowed away aboard another ship, and convinces the captain to put in at the pirate port of Tortuga, where Sparrow is recruiting another crew, including the disgraced former Commodore James Norrington.
When she meets Jack, some sparks fly, but it's in her hands that the compass finally begins to lead the way to the "dead man's chest." It seems that each of the protagonists - Sparrow, Turner and Norrington - want Davy Jones' heart for themselves, and this sets off a hilarious three-way battle for the organ.
As expected, Depp is great in this role (although he seems a bit more spaced-out, or intoxicated most of the time), and there are some pretty good moments here (such as the triple sword-fight on a huge rolling water mill), if one can sit through the plot complications long enough to figure out what's going on.
The conclusion paves the way an obvious sequel (due for release in 2007), so that last picture may clear up some of the confusion from this one.