Monday, December 18, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

That flamboyant pirate Jack Sparrow (the ever tongue-in-cheek Johnny Depp) owes his soul to the infamous undead pirate Davy Jones and must save it by locating the chest that holds the dead man's broken heart, which will set Jack free. The engaged Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann need to get Jack's compass, which points to a large treasure, into the hands of a corrupt British trader in order to save themselves from a jail sentence for aiding in Jack's escape. The ensuing two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza entangles the three protagonists' lives again and offers everything from a grand bar brawl to a three-way sword fight on a spinning wheel to the attack of a ship-swallowing Kraken. Whereas the original Pirates was a surprisingly good cinematic rendering of a theme-park attraction, Gore Verbinski's sequel feels like an overly long, if impressively dazzling, roller-coaster ride that sets up part three. It's saved by its leads (particularly Depp), Davy Jones's creepy-looking fish-man crewmates, and a sense of grandeur befitting its high-seas hijinks.

THE DISC: While there is plenty of Pirates propaganda — scenes from the premiere at Disneyland, promotion of the revamped Pirates ride, congratulatory production profiles — the extras also reveal the mounting frustrations, tension, dangers, and difficulties in creating an epic that encompassed 1,000 people and several months of filming in remote locations, with a script that had barely been finished by the start of production. The Pirates films may be fun to watch, but they're a logistical nightmare to create.