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Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

Notorious Captain Jack Sparrow is at it again in this non-stop action-packed sequel to "Pirates I: The Curse of the Black Pearl." This time around, Jack gets a visit from the infamous sea legend, Davy Jones, who has come to claim his payment for the resurrection of the Black Pearl thirteen years ago. As Sparrow tries to evade selling his soul to Jones' purgatory-esque crew, William Turner seeks out Sparrow in hopes of acquiring a certain coveted compass that will be a bartering tool in exchange for the lives of both himself, and his beautiful fiancée, Miss Elizabeth Swan. From one geographic region to the next, Sparrow, Turner, and the swashbuckling crew evade the ruthless Davy Jones, his tactless crustacean crew, and the nefarious sea monster, AKA the Kragen, all the while piecing together the mystery behind Lord Beckett's mysterious plans.

The cast includes: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Jack Davenport, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, and Jonathan Pryce.

Written by: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.

Directed by: Gore Verbinski.

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Genre: Action, Fantasy (Rated: PG-13)

Tagline: It's a swashbuckling good time, yet again; pirates, natives, mystics, sea monsters and all!

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Commencing where the prequel ended, “Pirates II” opens with the unexpected delay of the Turner-Swan nuptials when one antagonistic Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) enters the scene with warrants for the arrest of William Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), and her father, Governor Weatherby Swan (Jonathan Pryce) on the charges of treason, specifically, aiding and abetting a pirate. The pirate: Captain Jack Sparrow.

Hauling the fair lady to the dungeon cell, Beckett blackmails both her fiancée, Turner, and her father, Governor Swan, into launching a crusade for the capture of Jack Sparrow and his pirating crew. Specifically, Beckett informs Turner that the retrieval of a certain compass (rumored to point in the direction of that which you most desire) in the possession of one Captain Sparrow is enough to garner the release and legal pardon of Turner and fiancée. So, the noble Turner agrees to go in search of Sparrow and barter for the strange booty to save his beloved wife-to-be.

Meanwhile, Sparrow receives a visit from none other than Turner’s long lost father, “Bootstrap” Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgard). Bootstrap informs Sparrow that his visit brings the omen of the “black spot,” portending the unpleasant appearance of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). * As the legend goes, after having nearly died of heartache over “love’s labor lost,” Davy Jones decided to cut out his heart, locking it away in a chest buried on a secret island. Protecting the key, Davy Jones is half-alive, half-dead, and as such, ruler of an equally purgatorial crew of crustacean-infested “ghosts” who sold their soul in exchange for servitude upon Jones’s ship; a move Bootstrap Bill did the many years ago he was mutinied upon by the crew of the Black Pearl. So, Jones wanders the great sea in search of all debtors, hoping to reclaim payment in the form of service. But, part of the legend includes the stipulation that Jones is only able to set foot on land once but every decade.

With respect to Sparrow, it seems Jack bartered with Jones to resurrect the Pearl and allow him the chance to once again captain a crew for 13 years before entering 100 years of involuntary servitude upon Jones’s ship. Now “marked,” Sparrow tucks tail and runs to the nearest dry land in hopes of evading Jones’ scrupulous eye. Still, though Jones’ can’t yet set foot on dry land, Sparrow and crew are still at the mercy of his powers while at sea. Among his deadly powers includes the loyal, albeit deadly sea monster, the Kragen: a giant octopus purportedly reeking of posthumous flesh, and powerful enough to take down a ship in the matter of seconds. So, when the ruthless Jones sets his Kragen upon several ships, including the Black Pearl, it’s only a matter of time before Sparrow tries to weasel his way out of his debt.

His cunning plan involves the unexpected arrival of William Turner, who, after rescuing Sparrow from the deadly grips of pagan natives, finds himself being blackmailed by Sparrow into servitude upon Jones’ ship. But Jones soon realizes that Turner is not a “viable” candidate for servitude; neither half-dead nor despairing, Jones’ returns to Sparrow with the demand that 100 more crewmen, in addition to Turner, are necessary for the substitution of Sparrow’s soul. So, while Turner serves upon the ghastly ship, he gets the surprise of a lifetime when he comes face to face with the ghost of his past, his father. As the two develop a bond, however tenuous, Turner sets about trying to ascertain the key to Davy Jones’ “locker,” one can assume, in hopes of trading it for Sparrow’s compass.

Meanwhile, the beautiful Miss Swan escapes from prison and sets out on a few dangerous sea adventures of her own. Posing as a male, the fair lady crews her way from the infamous Tortuga to other raucous ports in search of her fiancée. Of course, Turner ascertains the key, joins up with Sparrow, and reunites with the beautiful Swan all in a timely manner. Also joining the “crew” of the Black Pearl is the once cavalier Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport). Other repeat appearances are the loyal Gibbs (Kevin McNally), and of course, the beloved dog; you’ll also recognize many familiar pirate faces throughout the film.

As the crew of the Black Pearl sets out in search of Davy Jones’ locker, Jones’ set out in search of the Black Pearl. But once the crew finds the “locker” what do they intend to do with its inner contents? Consequently, part two of the “Davy Jones” legend portends that whoever possesses the heart of Davy Jones, controls the open seas. So, while Jack intends to stab it in the heart, Commodore Norrington intends to bribe his way back into society with it, handing it over to Lord Beckett; Miss Swan could care less for the heart; and Turner wants the heart to release the capture of his imprisoned father. Of course, once the heart is discovered, mayhem breaks loose, as crusty sea-fellow, pirate (Sparrow), honest men (Turner), and fallen men (Norrington) alike fight over the covetous prize.

But who will end up with the heart of Jones, and what will become of the infamous legend thereafter? More importantly, what is the antagonistic, assumedly “belated” Captain Barbosa doing making a sudden appearance at the film’s end? The answers lay in watching the film, and of course, its successor; this cliffhanger entertains, but all certainties as to the storyline remain undisclosed until “Pirates III” (May, 2007).

Review:

“Lively is an odd word for something called Dead Man's Chest, but lively it is. You won't find hotter action, wilder thrills or loopier laughs this summer.”-Peter Travers, Rolling Stone “Pirates” is the modern-day “Indiana Jones” action trilogy; and, garnering as equal a magnitude in cult followers as “Jones,” “Pirates” promises to shamelessly entertain again, and again, and, of course, again! With respect to the “Jones’” trilogy, even Rolling Stones film critic, Peter Travers, noted the homage/rip-off flair of “Pirates,” arguing the sequel employs “every trick the filmmakers could raid from Spielberg's Indiana Jones trilogy. Homage or ripoff? You be the judge. The important thing is that it works.”

So, with the unexpected success of the first “Pirates,” “Dead Man’s Chest” does its best to measure up; in other words, expect over-the-top, fantastical, whimsical, extravagant plot lines—several of them, actually—and a no-expense-spared portrayal of some of pop cultures most infamous sea legends in parts “II” and “III” of the “Pirates” series. As if Davy Jones weren’t enough, there are bayou mystics, appearances of the walking (un)dead, and a nefarious giant octopus/squid thingy, this time claiming the odious name “Kragen.” “Dead Man’s Chest” is a complex hybrid of “Jason and the Argonauts” meets “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” meets Disneyland meets “Indiana Jones,” and it’s ridiculous good fun in the process.

As one critic has noted of “Dead Man’s Chest,” “From start to finish, it practically flaunts the fact that it is pure and utter entertainment, comic yet breathtaking.” Despite the almost nauseating pace of action—yes, meandering plot line(s) development ensues throughout the dense sequel—“Dead Man’s Chest” manages to hold one’s focus. Child and grownup alike “ooh” and “ahh” at the spectacular visual assault of special effects in the second episode of the tri-part “Pirates” series. This time, skeletal pirates give way for an astounding array of crustacean-inspired undead crewmen aboard Davy Jones’ maiden ship, The Flying Dutchman. From hammerheads, to mussels, to squid, Davy Jones’ crew is a colorfully imaginative depiction that pleasantly entertains; of course, the most impressive of the crew is Jones’ himself, whose mutated squid-inspired shell is enigmatically intriguing; the special effects and graphic arts crews should applaud themselves for such realistic depictions of these mythical-man creatures.

With a solid cast backing the series, “Dead Man’s Chest” promises to deliver on talent. Smitten with the slippery Sparrow from minute one of the first “Pirates,” Johnny Depp ups the ante in “Dead Man’s Chest” with an equally impressive Grande entrance into the film, and of course, slapstick antics and witty banter endlessly thereafter. The rapport between Depp and Knightley ignites the screen with a sexual tension too convincing to go unnoticed (the same can be said of Depp’s sexual magnetism with the alluring Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma as well); in fact, the magnetism almost undermines the believability of Knightley’s role as the fair lady allegedly in love with Will Turner; then again, perhaps that’s the point. In other words, Depp is as sexy, charming, and brash as ever. Knightley plays her role to a wit, and Bloom steps in stride as the insipidly chivalrous Turner.

But some of the best entertainment also comes from the dynamics of the supporting cast’s contributions to the colorful leading characters. Kevin McNally’s performance as Gibbs is utterly endearing as a hyperbolic typecast pirate; and who can ignore the midget and his slapdash “arrr”? The film brazenly parades about its reckless exploitation of stereotype as the easiest mode of entertainment with such extravagantly typecast caricatures. Still, the mystical performance of Naomie Harris as medium Tia Dalma, Jonathan Pryce’s portrayal of one desperate, derelict Commodore Norrington, Stellan Skarsgard’s role as Bootstrap, and Bill Nighy’s magical portrayal of Davy Jones are what carry this film to a whole other level of fantasy and fun. Indeed, “Bill Nighy delivers his lines with aplomb,” rivaling Depp for center stage, though through the exploitation of a very different rhetoric. For Travers, “Nighy's performance…brims over with mirth and menace.” Indeed, the solid cast helps make this imaginative voyage all the more spectacular.

L.A. Times film reviewer, Carina Chocano, argues “Pirates” is “Awash with plot twists, this sequel is too much of what was a good thing.” Truth be told, “Pirates” is inundated with plotlines, multiple character narratives, and non-stop action sequences. Nevertheless, it’s “Pirates’” cult-factor that allows the film to shamelessly exploit every minute of its running time with such meandering narratives. ”Dead Man’s Chest” doesn’t claim to be introspective, philosophical, or allegorical on any levels; its pure, shameless, fantastic, over-the-top, mythical magical fun, and, might I add, some of Hollywood’s top names jumped on the bandwagon to get a piece of the fun in the process! Though Chocano, like many a critic, easily spots the flaws in the sequel’s helter-skelter plot (or lack thereof), even she can’t help but note the uncontrollable magnetism the film portrays, namely through its leading man, Depp:

The sources of Jack Sparrow's appeal are too numerous and obvious to count, but it's his lesser qualities that make him refreshing…For all his bluster, Sparrow is as vulnerable as his name implies — and the forces out to get him have multiplied and grown more fearsome. – Carina Chocano, L.A. Times

Peter Traver’s chimes in with his enthusiastic opinion:

Depp builds on the role, investing his pirate prince with quick wit, erotic mischief and a sneaky sense of decency…Depp's Capt. Jack is a classic comic creation and also the most subversive hero ever in a Disney movie -- a debauched, bi-sexual narcissist with a devilish glint…You can’t take your eyes off of him.- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Thus, as Chocano notes, it is Depp-as-Sparrow’s “Faustian debt” to Davy Jones that drives the film, though the plots fuses into a muddled many other along the way. For Chocano, “The story of ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ is predicated on complex mercantile negotiations that end up in a scramble of standoffs and double-crosses, but the surfeit of characters and story lines leech it of its tension and tangle it up in ancillary threads … In between, there's much more padding than was necessary.” True, but all the same, for the less critical reviewer, namely, the mass audience, it is precisely this “padding” that entertains; it is exactly the “effects for effects' sake” of Davy Jones’ Flying Dutchman crew that fascinates audiences with the exploitation of mythical sea legends á la the creative genius of Disney and innovative graphic artists. Without all the “padding,” its likely “Dead Man’s Chest” would have failed; many a postmodern, short patience-span viewer may have likely been bored by any sincere attempt at philosophical, or at least, substantive examination of the main character’s plot and persona developments in the highly anticipated sequel. The jumbled narrative(s) of “Dead Man’s Chest” are simply more “spectacular, spectacular” for the sake of grins and giggles, and, as film critics, I think its both important to recognize the verity of such a fact, and, consequently, to praise “Pirates II” for so being so shamelessly so.

Instead, as Rolling Stones film critic, Peter Travers, notes, “Returning director, Gore Verbinski, and screenwriters, Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott[,] have wisely taken a cue from Depp and learned how to play fast and loose with the material…Dead Man's Chest has blockbuster fish to fry, which means nonstop action” from start to finish. Whether you’re looking for Depp to astound; Knightley to seduce (though, really, its Depp who does the seducing); or Bloom to triumph, “Dead Man’s Chest” promises to tickle your fancy, one way or another, through one of its many interminable rhetorical tricks. One can only hope the third episode of the trilogy capitalizes on the ample potential “Dead Man’s Chest” laid in the foundation of the equally highly anticipated final narrative.

Awards:

“Dead Man’s Chest” was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Performance by Male Actor in a Musical or Comedy (Johnny Depp). Additionally, “Pirates” won another 11 critical film association awards and received 18 film award nominations. Among some of “Pirates” awards are the People’s Choice Awards for “Favorite Movie”; “Favorite Movie Drama”; “Favorite On-Screen Match-Up” (Keira Knightley and Johnny Depp), as well as 7 Teen Choice Awards, and the Satellite Award for Best Visual Effects (John Knoll and Hal T. Hickel).

Main Characters:

Johnny Depp plays “Captain” Jack Sparrow.

Orlando Bloom plays Will Turner, son of “Bootstrap” Bill Turner.

Jack Davenport plays Norrington, formerly known as Commodore Norrington.

Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Swann, Will’s fiancée.

Bill Nighy pays the infamous Davy Jones.

Tom Hollander plays Lord Cutler Beckett, the “bad guy.”

Stellan Skarsgard plays Bootstrap Bill, Will Turner’s long lost father.

Naomie Harris plays Tia Dalma, the bayou mystic.

Kevin McNally plays faithful Gibbs.

Jonathan Pryce plays Governor Weatherby Swann, Elizabeth’s father.