After the staggering and somewhat unexpected success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, two sequels were immediately green-lit to complete a trilogy. The first of them, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was released in 2006 and reunited the original cast with director Gore Verbinski and become one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) are arrested on their wedding day by representatives of the East India Trading Company for aiding the escape of pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Elizabeth is thrown in jail and Will is sent to recover Jack’s ˜broken’ compass, which it is hoped actually points in the direction of the eponymous Dead Man’s Chest. Jack meanwhile hopes to find the chest, containing the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and use it to get out of a deal he made with Jones for his soul 13 years previous.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest raises the stakes from the original film in order to give the narrative a sense of epic scale. There are more fantastic creatures and characters, including a barnacled ˜Bootstrap’ Bill (Stellen Skarsgaard) and the wonderfully slimy and repulsive Davy Jones himself.
The inclusion of such creatures further dilutes the sense of originality from the original film. Where the skeletal crew of The Black Pearl gave the sense of unique, supernatural elements in the real world, Dead Man’s Chest’s relentless magics further transport the action out of reality and the result is making the extraordinary rather mundane and tiresome. No longer are we experiencing a ghost story, but rather a cartoon-edged monsters ball.
The physical comedy is still in Dead Man’s Chest, playing to Verbinski’s strengths but the audience is also treated to long expositional speeches to make the messy plot make some semblance of sense. Dead Man’s Chest is rescued somewhat by Johnny Depp’s second turn as Captain Jack Sparrow, still one film away from outstaying his welcome. The supporting cast including Bloom, Knightley and Jack Davenport’s Norrington are all given their own character arcs and plenty of screen time. Unfortunately this doesn’t give Dead Man’s Chest depth but rather an overlong running time and added confusion.
Crushing disappointment doesn’t really do Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest justice. Spending all of the good will created by the spectacularly fun original, this first sequel is confusing, too long and bereft of joy. Worse things were to come however with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End a year later.