Dead Man’s Chest

[rate 4]
I sacrificed attending the general release opening of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean 2 : Dead Man’s Chest” to support an art opening in Decatur, which might seem unbelievable if you’ve ever been accosted by my alter-ego Cap’n Drew, a solid fan of all things piratic. Last night I dragged said alter-ego out to see the film and have to say that we were generally pleased (in the royal sense) with the picture, swashing four buckles out of five. Being both a sequel, the middle act of a trilogy and a star-studded summer blockbuster, ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ was fated to be jammed underneath the lens of “entertainment journalists” who immediately began grousing about the movie being nothing more than a sack full of exposition and needless action; a mere setup for the third and final movie “At World’s End”. I only have one question: “Did any of you guys see “The Empire Strikes Back”?.

You probably know the story. When “Empire” was first released it suffered the slings and arrows of reviewers who were cross that the storyline was left unresolved until the next and final film, but over time the film became recognized as the strongest of the original Star Wars episodes (arguably attributable to the fact that Lucas got Irwin Kirshner to direct).

While “Dead Man’s Chest” isn’t on the level of “Empire”, I can safely say that it isn’t nearly as bad as some reviewers have made it out to be. I quite enjoyed it, and so did our audience. Fully a week after the movie’s opening a bunch of regular people on the unfashionable end of Atlanta sat and clapped when the credits rolled. They clapped. Surprised the hell out of me! I can’t remember the last time that happened at my local theater.

I think that director Gore Verbinski can safely tell his naysayers to “eat it”.

I mean, it’s just a cartoon anyway. A cinematic version of a dark ride from Disney World, nothing more, nothing less. Art, schmart… it’s good old-fashioned theater, an eminently enjoyable bit of summer escapism.

While the first film in the series, “The Black Pearl”, is a pre-requisite to understanding the finer points of “Dead Man’s Chest” there’s so much action in this movie that a newcomer to the world of the pirate Captain Jack Sparrow would still be entertained and could likely figure out where things stood by the time it really gets rolling. And rolling.

*** Light Spoilers ***
The action sequences are riveting and liberally sprinkled with clever hijincks, references to the original Disney ride and setups for subsequent tweaks to said ride. The references to traditional western nautical lore are imaginative and visually arresting; from the villainous Davy Jones and his seafood-encrusted crew to the legendary sea monster that Jones sics upon Captain Sparrow, my tricorn is doffed to the filmmakers technical achievements. But I’ll argue that it’s not all just special effects. The movie dips, bobs and veers on a Jack Sparrow-like path that explores aspects of the first film’s characters not seen in the first film. That’s about as much as you could ask from a movie based upon a jumped-up carnival ride.

Bottomline: If you’ve heard that this film isn’t any good then you’ve been misled; as long as you remember that this is an middle episode you should enjoy it just fine!

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