Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean 2

Director: Gore Verbinski
Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

I wasn't a big fan of the original Pirates, although I did enjoy Johnny Depp's performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, and I liked Geoffrey Rush as the evil Barbossa--but those performances were the only real reason that I felt it was worth watching. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley bored me whenever they appeared, and there was occasional action scene that was clever, but it never hooked me all the way.

So, that this sequel is inferior in every way to the first chapter doesn't bode well. Writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are chief to blame, but director Gore Verbinski will get half the brunt as well. There's a big action segment near the beginning that really has no place in the story other than for Pirates fans to laugh at Sparrow caught up in a nutty situation--it requires full love of the first movie and the character--it's like an old friend came home and told of his harrowing adventures, and we laugh because we're glad he made it out alive. If some sort of plot point were revealed through this, it might have been forgivable. Most people, though, will be able to ignore the complete pointlessness and enjoy some impossible action sequences and humor courtesy of Captain Jack.

Now, the plot concerns this: Jack (Depp) owes Davy Jones (Bill Nighy--covered in a mask with tentacles, but the eyes and facial expressions don't lie) his soul for being given the ship The Black Pearl. He is given a black mark on his palm after a visit from one of Jones's men, a surprise character played by Stellan Skarsgard. Meanwhile, back on the homefront, Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) have their marriage plans interrupted by the greedy Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), who jails them for allowing Sparrow to get away. He will grant them freedom if Turner can get Sparrow's compass. So, when Turner finds Sparrow, he tricks Turner into boarding Davy Jones's ship, The Flying Dutchman, a move that buys Sparrow more time as he seeks out the key to a chest that contains Jones's heart. Of course, time eventually runs out and Sparrow again becomes a marked man, putting him in the crosshairs of Jones and his tentacled sea monster, the Kraken.

So, it's a lot of...get this for me, and I'll give you this...kind of treasure hunting, which isn't very exciting, at least not to me. I thought Verbinski blew it in some of the setups--the Kraken is one area I thought could have used a little more suspense and less gee-whiz special effects. But where the movie really blows it is...fantasy, magic. We're talking pirates, we're talking adventure, and I thought that it lacked that sense of wonder and fun of looking for a buried treasure. It lacks that Indiana Jones feel, where each new location uncovers a layer of mystery.

The coveted objects in the story are all too easy to locate and to possess--and meanwhile the film distracts your typical viewer with ridiculous swordfights and games, and of course, Depp's breakthrough performance, which is still fun to watch--although I do have this one criticism--we're beginning to see this Depp schtick a lot--the way he holds his mouth in disgust, little facial gestures that I even saw in Depp's last flick The Libertine, the kind that we first saw way back in 1994 with Ed Wood and have become his staple laugh-getting quirks. Don't get me wrong, he's always a delight to watch--but really, when it comes down to it, the problem is not with him, it's what he's been given--the "big and better" sequel should have been a blastoff for this character--and it just isn't.

I will give props to Nighy in addition to Depp. His Davy Jones is great--although watered down when it comes to him needing to call on the mythical sea monster to do his bidding, and how easily he gets tricked in a couple of instances. Once again, writing. And really, you could do without the Turner and Swann characters and be just fine.

Despite my apathy for the original Pirates, I still consider its sequel a disappointment in addition to just being a not very good film. I really expected a lot better. That'll show me. Bring on the third I guess--next summer.


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