"There will come a moment when you have a chance to do the right thing."
"I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by."
-Elizabeth Swann and Captain Jack Sparrow
Dead Man's Chest
I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie with some trepidation. A movie based not even on a videogame, but on an amusement park ride? Oh dear God. And starring two leading men who seemed to make their mark posing as prettyboys rather than actually doing much of anything? Ye Gods and little fishes.
I walked out laughing, reciting lines, making hideous sword-like swipes with my arms at friends, and yelling " ARR!" at the top of my voice with clumps of others who were leaving the theater. This was a summer movie; one that knew what it was, and played that to the hilt. So it was with these high-in-a-strange direction expectations that I went to see the sequel.
I was only slightly disappointed. I have to say that Dead Man's Chest is a worthy, worthy sequel to the first movie. Depp is his (gack) lovable self from the first, and Bloom has actually improved. Partially this is due to his character improving, and partly (I think) due to his gaining experience. He's got a bit more subtlety. He's no longer just a straight man.
The movie has everything we'd expect, in spades. It has pirates (duh), tall ships, curses, fencing, fighting, chases, escapes, true love...wait, no, wrong movie. Sea monsters, buried treasure, drunken brawls, unscrupulous bureaucrats, quests, debts, cheating, lying, stealing, wenching, and lots of what is known in the trade as 'disturbing the peace.' The stunts have gotten wilder without...quite getting too silly. The humor is in context, so it doesn't fall flat for standing out too tall in the midst of otherwise taking-themselves-too-seriously action sequences. There are pratfalls, cartoon physics, old chestnut jokes and bittersweet lines.
"Why is the rum always gone?"
(gets up; staggers sideways drunkenly)
"Ah, yes, that's why."
-Captain Jack Sparrow
So what's wrong with it?
Not much, actually. The real problem is that it feels like a middle movie. You know the type - you suddenly realize that you've been in your seat enjoying yourself for just on two hours, and there's no way they're going to resolve everything to your satisfaction. Sure, there's going to be an ending, but...hang on a minute. That can't be it, can it? And what about those four or five threads they dropped back there and didn't pick up...? This, in turn, shows in the character interaction. It just can't be sustained. We're kept on tenterhooks about some of the characters for the entire film - in a manner which just can't be resolved by the end. Nope. Even if they give you an end, they sure don't give you closure.
Now there's an obvious reason for this. Of course. Pirates of the Caribbean: Movie III. It's quite obviously coming (Update: I'm a 'tard. It's already in production, and is named Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and is due in 2007). Depp has admitted he's happy to do these for as long as they make money and they're willing to pay him. And why not? He's obviously being paid a great deal of cash to get up on screen and have what looks to be a hell of a lot of fun. Likewise the other players. This is a big, boomy, not-too-uptight, let's-film-in- Jamaica-eh-what sort of movie, just the thing you want to be involved with for a regular paycheck every three years or so. Bring it on, I say. RKO serial pictures are here again, but the delay is just a bit longer.
-Captain Jack Sparrow
It's okay. This movie is one of those that knows precisely what it is. It's not trying to be anything it isn't. It knows the limits of its genre, and it is busily trying to crowd those lines with the alacrity of a professional basketballer guarding an opponent who stole his supermodel girlfriend. Watch it revel in its sauciness, and slather it over your face like Jack's makeup as you grin hugely. See it on a big screen, because I strongly suspect that its ability to overcome its sheer silliness will decrease at a much larger proportion than the screen size, and it will lose a great deal in the pixelated translation.
Tell yourself this during the middle of the movie. It'll help, as you wonder why the actors (some of them) look like they're a bit confused about what they're supposed to be doing with their characters, as opposed to their swords. It's not their fault. The scriptwriters haven't figured it out yet either. In the meantime, I do know this. While it may just be due to a momentary overdose of movie fun factor, if I ever turn around and see an enormous mythological creature straight from Hell itself has crept across the threshold slavering while I wasn't paying attention, I can only hope my reaction meets the example set by that of Captain Jack.
Does this make it a bad movie? YES. Yes it does. It's the beginning of a deliberately drawn-out series of 'Pirates' movies. It's got a serious case of climaxus interruptus - all this time, and our lovely couple still haven't managed to jump bones...er, unless you count those skeletons in the first...never mind. This is what I mean by 'unresolved issues.' They keep piling up, because if they resolve them faster than they create them, you won't come see a sequel. So this movie, unlike the first movie, is for the ride, not the finish. I just want to be clear that if it's the ride you're there for, you'll be fine. But remember, the movie was based on a ride. And it's the ride you go for, not the moment you pull back into the starting corral and get out of the tram.
Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho! and a bottle o' rum...