Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
So last night we went out and caught Pirates of
First, a couple things:
1. I'm much less obsessed with the movie than most people I know who've enjoyed it. As in, not at all. The presence of an elder god was really what made me care about seeing it in the theater.
2. Things that are technically spoilers will appear. So if you care, stop now. If you don't, they're nothing major (imho).
So off to the good: if you wanted a movie that would deliver everything you liked about the first movie, you will like this film. All of the main characters appear, they all do things that are both similar to and sensible extrapolations of their roles in the first film, and more characters show up and do other stuff and wacky hijinks generally ensue.
The most intriguing thing about watching the movie for me was realizing about halfway through what the appeal is for me. It's a universe composed of straight men, with Jack Sparrow representing a walking punch line. Everyone else is in a perfectly serious pirate movie, and is thus focused on great riches, or honor, or revenge, etc. And Jack Sparrow is in some sort of twisted Buster Keaton film, blundering from scene to scene and locally warping reality around his presence. Which is the great success and the great failure of the first movie for me: on the other hand, it's what makes the movies entertaining. These would be two boring, festering piles of crap if all of the characters and actors approached the material with a straight face. But at the same time, it's difficult for me to take the events seriously when the lead himself can't be bothered to.
Cthulhu does star as the villian--playing Davy Jones of the Monkees--and he does quite a good job, although I'm not sure how much I like the approach of the character. Quite frankly, he's a bit too overtly Christian for my tastes, which is odder and odder the longer you think about it. The idea behind him is interestingly framed in the movie, but is in and of itself a bit of a letdown. He gets two thumbs up for having an organ, though: a must for any truly villianous character, and he plays it so well.
Onto the annoying:
The way the plot eked out in drips and drabs was incredibly annoying. Our first scene on the Black Pearl establishes that the other pirates on the ship don't know what's bothering Jack. A half hour later, they start explaining it all to Will Turner because, you know, somebody has to get the exposition out of the way. A lot of the plot is like that: things of significance suddenly get explained to a character not in any organic fashion, but simply because the plot reaches a point where the audience has to know something of import, and so the movie can't treat it as a mystery anymore. At least they seem to avoid cabbage-heading, for the most part, although it does sometimes appear that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are the only two people north of the equator who don't know everything there is to know about Davy Jones.
Finally, the most annoying two things for last:
#1: Oh, hey, it's not a movie. It's the first half of a movie, the second half just re-started filming (after filming some scenes concurrently with the first half). I allow that filmmakers are allowed to end movies in whatever fashion they want: even on a cliffhanger. But at the same time? I paid to watch a movie: I got half a movie instead. Can I pay half price? I could complain about this more, but it would quickly just turn into whining.
#2: You know what? It's the year 2006. I'd really sort of thought that maybe--just maybe--I wouldn't see native cannibal savages who worship white men as gods in a movie ever again. It's ridiculous. Haven't we gotten past this? Seriously? Why not just have Johnny Depp put on black face and sing "Mamie" while you're at it? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I could almost let it slip--or at least not be incredibly pissed off about it--by arguing that this isn't intended as a portrayal of the Caribbean of the real world, but rather some abstract fantasy Caribbean, where zombies walk along the sea bottom, Cthulhu captains a ship, and pirates can be heroes because they never actually do anything remotely piratic. But all the same, when your villian is the East Indian Trading Company (which, oddly enough, operated in... um, India), you've made a certain concrete step into the real world. Blech.
So? The movie gets an overall rating of three stars: it gains a bonus star for Cthulhu playing the organ, and loses a penalty star for making me feel filthy all over for a good half hour near the beginning. End result: still three stars.