Villagers With Pitchforks

The flaming torches were delayed in transit, sorry.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Captain Jack Was A Snoozer, I'm Sorry To Say

Being a not entirely spoiler-free review: ye be warned.

So: our favorite Carribbean trio are all in a $2.99 barrel o'pickles:
Jack Sparrow, out on the Black Pearl, is dottier than ever, driven to distraction by a debt he Really Doesn't want to repay. Meanwhile, back in good old Port Royal, the new East India Company factotum wants power, more power - and he's using Will Turner and threatening Eliza Swann in order to get it.

This is the opening of Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It's a slightly more complex story than the first one, and that's okay. But more complex isn't necessarily better. And it's rather less funny than before. And somewhat less fun, in spite (or because?) of the fact that most of the characters have returned. The new villains are almost unrelieving in their menace. Nobody seems to have much fun for large swashes of this movie. At least Barbossa was witty and charming in the first one.

There were lots of things to enjoy: the use of the East India Company - the Wal-Mart of the 1700's - to produce a power-hungry villain, a returning character's fall from grace, some fine set-piece swordfights. Elizabeth Swann gets herself into position to kick some butt, and it's clear she and Will Turner have been practicing with those swords he makes. Tortuga seems to have had a population explosion: there's so much action per square inch in the scenes there that lovers of stuntwork may well wear out their DVD players next year trying to catalog it all. The superatural takes on a much more visible role this time around, as the filmmakers strive to outdo their work from last time. And the actors playing the newer characters did their best to stand up to Johnny Depp, who still entertains as Captain Jack Sparrow in the fewer opportunities he gets to just talk to another character.

Still, I would have enjoyed a quieter, slightly less spectacular piece, with better character development. The inevitable cliffhanger ending (surely you saw this coming: I know I did) means that this is really the first part of a five-hour story, and in five hours, there's plenty of time for heart along with the monsters.

So, tell 'em, young Ladies, go and tell 'em for me,
Next time try to have some more fun on the sea.

I'll give it three doubloons out of five.


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