Ah, yes, the almighty trilogy. In some ways, it is Hollywood's own "Dead Man's Chest", especially when it comes to a trilogy's middle film. There have been brilliant middles and weak middle films.
Hollywood's new idea of filming two sequels back-to-back was first started with the Back to the Future trilogy back in 1989. It makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. You keep the same cast under contract, get two sequels, no need to hire new writers in the downtime, stagger the release of the films, and well, you have "one trilogy to rule them all", or the box office that is. But what studios forget is that you also need "one strong film to bind them".
This brings us to the latest trilogy to explode into theatres with "back-to-back" sequels and drooling at a chance to become the next great franchise.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest begins with the arrest of nobleman Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) just as he is about to marry sweetheart Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Their crimes from the first film come back to haunt them. To get out of getting hanged and save his true love, Will is instructed to steal a mysterious compass away from Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).
Meanwhile, Captain Jack is having problems of his own when his debt to the "scourge of the seven seas" Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) comes due. But Captain Jack has a plan up his sleeve. Jack knows the secret of Davy Jones and if he can unlock it he just might get out of his contract.
It's high adventure beyond compare in this new adventure of the morally corrupt but loveable pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow.
The film has a lot of dazzling stunts, brilliant makeup, and opens the whole world we were introduced to in the first one even wider. The film moves along quite well with a couple overly-long dramatic sequences along the way.
Depp doesn't miss a note as he steps back into the role that has made him the idol of millions of screaming teenage girls. Trust me I know, I sat amongst a gaggle of them at a midnight screening for this film.
Depp's performance is funny, ambiguous, and unpredictable. No matter what kind of thing he does to the people around him we are always cheering for him. Why is that?
I really liked the story, importance, and mystery surrounding the film's central villain, Davy Jones. I loved everything about him from his wiggling and moving, squid-like head, to his peg leg. This is the kind of villain you want to see in a film like this. The whole Davy Jones concept is brilliant and really embraces the whole Davy Jones myth.
I found some of the stunts really over-the-top and kind of reminded me of that outrageous and poorly-conceived falling sequence in Peter Jackson's King Kong. I love Captain Jack and his world, but come on.
Since this is just half the story, we never know what to expect or where this adventure will stop. Like most second films in a trilogy, the ever-continuing story is the film's biggest fault. Dead Man's Chest is no exception. Some exceptions are films like Empire Strikes Back and Aliens. Then there are the vastly weaker ones like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Back to the Future 2, and The Matrix: Reloaded. Even the almighty The Lord of the Rings trilogy had a weak middle film with The Two Towers, but that doesn't mean it didn't serve its purpose.
Dead Man's Chest is a strong follow-up to the original film and it's everything we have been waiting for, even if it is only half of a much larger story. I guess we won't know just how good this story is until May of 2007 when the third film arrives. Can't wait! (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.