the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

The second one always sucks.

It’s called the sequel curse. It’s not a scientific hypothesis of course, but like the lesser-known but even more accurate Star Trek “even movies are great/odd movies suck” rule, it certainly holds water. And when it comes to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, it holds a hell of a lot of water. Enough to sink a ship...or a film, to be sure.

The first installment of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl surprised everyone. It was a rousing, lively, hilarious, magical free-for-all of fun that decided that if it was a film based on an amusement park ride, the least it could be was amusing. Unfortunetly, its sequel is based on one of those Disney rides that recently broke free of the tracks, careened out of control, cartwheeled into a tangled mess of twisted plot and gnarled screenplay and, if it didn’t kill everyone aboard, they certainly wished they were dead at the end of it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is nothing more than filler--a stopgap movie that feels so lazy, overstimulated and uninspired that when the credits roll, you are bound to look at the person next to you and say, “Did we really just sit through two and a half hours of noisy action sequences, convoluted plot twists that go nowhere, and numerous false endings only to be told that we’ll still have to plop down another $10 next year just to find out what happens?” This isn’t a film--it’s a two and half hour trailer for a third Disney cash-cow in this accidental trilogy.

All the ship’s company are back. From the scurvy knave, Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), stalwart Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and mermaid Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) to lesser but no less recognizable supporting players. Problem is, no one seems to be having any fun (least of all the audience). I kept waiting for some moment where I could say, “Now there’s the Jack Sparrow we all know and love.” I gave up right about the time he died. (Oh stop fretting, you don’t reaaaally think he’s dead do you?). Will Turner’s is about as interesting as barnacle growth, and if Elizabeth isn’t underused, she’s misused as a cross-dressing, sword-wielding Amazonian who can’t decide which man she loves--the boring one or the one who struts around with more feminine grace than she.

The same filmmakers came back for the second ride too. This one has the same producer (“Jerry Bruckheimer is the Devil” bumper stickers to be sold soon; act now and also get “Michael Bay is Satan” for no extra price), same director, same screen-writers, etc.

Yes, everything from the first one is back except the plot, amusing dialogue, comic timing, and charming characters. Other than that, everything you loved about the first movie is in this one too.

Oh, there are good elements to be sure. The effects are generally spectacular. So much so that, with a cast this uninspired, the CG characters give more lively performances than the humans. The best is Davy Jones, portrayed by the wonderful character actor Bill Nighy who’s juuuuust visible beneath a writhing mass of squiggly octopus tentacles. Then there’s the Kraken, a massive, mythological beast with tentacles the size of redwoods that can split a ship in two and suck in down to you-know-who’s locker in a matter of seconds.

It’s the actions scenes that director Gore Verbinski does well. Two in particular, with our heroes battling it out on a rolling water wheel as it careens through the jungle is especially nice. Another, when they are trying to escape from cannibals who have imprisoned them in cages hung above high chasms is a whimsical scene strait out of old Speilberg movies or Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoons.

This is a far darker film, in both cinematography and tone. And the movie is sucked dry of any sort of humor because of it. A few memorable bits aside, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a soggy movie, with no interest in coherence, emotion, economy or fun. But what do the filmmakers and Disney care--they’ve already made a zillion dollars. It will be interesting to see if there is any delayed backlash to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End when it comes out next summer.

This movie is the very definition of water torture. In one of the film’s multiple endings, a certain beloved characters is gobbled up by a huge special effect. Nope, no metaphor there at all.

I knew I should have listened to the ninja.


Anonymous Robin said...

Or, more succinctly:

Less Wit, More Goo.

always a bad sign.

1:33 PM  

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