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Wayners Boards Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Published July 12, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Wayne Aronsen | Image property of Disney.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Perhaps the film industry’s technical brilliance is beginning to spawn diminishing returns, and increasingly disagreeable creatures. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, we are forced to watch the crew of the “Flying Dutchman”–a doomed and cursed vessel with a crew of men condemned to a hundred years of reverse evolution– humans to crustaceans. A moldy collection always dripping wet and a leader with squirming tube worms and slithering tentacles for a beard.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Review

For the humans, personal hygiene (Keira Knightley’s character even makes a comment to that end) is nonexistent –except for the relief provided by the villains–the British naval officers who provide clean and tidy intervals to the squalor. If it weren’t for shipwrecks, there would be no showering whatsoever.

Besides having to endure the skin disorders of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and company, there is no end to tooth decay amongst the living. Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) witch doctor friend of the Bayou (Naomi Harris) is the worst. She looks as though she has eaten a bag of licorice before every scene. And what’s with the women standing in the swamp with candles? Haven’t they ever heard of Malaria?

During one chase -- the film is an exhausting succession of pursuits -- a crewmember loses his head –inside a mollusk of some sort. The imagination of the film’s special effects seems driven by a competition between the monstrous and the comical. I suppose I miss the sophistication of understatement.

Beyond my own monster phobia, I did enjoy some of the fun. The swinging macramé cages were a delight. Especially when they picked it up like a woman’s skirt and trotted through the jungle. The dislodged miller’s wheel was a bit hard to take. I realize sword fights are de rigueur for pirate movies; but one lasting twenty minutes? Without a single wound?

Jack Sparrow was his usual disarming and effeminate self. Johnny Depp is a master at mime. His dark, encircled eyes and expressions are pure silent film era– Valentino thrust into the world of special effects. Somehow, Depp stays just a step or two away from the pirate sleaze around him and the chaos (which best describes this film).

The tomboyish presence of Elizabeth Swann (Knightly) is consistent with the film’s theme–arrr! nary a pretty face to be seen, matey! Depp provides his own brand of comedy. One scene to remember: Sparrow, the fleeing jungle king with a pole tied to his back and eyes painted on his eyelids so whether open or closed, they’re open, has a fruit fight with the natives and in the end becomes the meat in the middle of the skewer. But sooner or later, everyone in the film leaps to safety (except for unfortunate crewmembers, dismembered by Davy Jones’ giant squid). Where was that so realistic creature when we needed him in old HG Wells movies? Aye, he was indeed a wondrous squid, he was.

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is the sober and just a tad too heroic fiancé of Elizabeth. He just can’t be otherwise, which usually fits him fine–just not in this film. He seems the hero in search of a worthwhile cause.

Some of the supporting cast were superb: Mackenzie Crook (Ragetti) as the one-eyed sailor and pals with Lee Arenberg (Pintel). The two had clever scenes together. One had the two rowing to shore with the illiterate Ragetti reading the Bible, upside down, claiming it didn’t matter if he could read, only that he tried.

Gibbs (Kevin MacNally) is Jack Sparrow’s able First Mate and one of the few who keeps reasonably well groomed; a pirate with hair gel and a trimmed beard. MacNalley keeps us grounded as much as is possible next to the otherworldly Depp.

Hollywood has come a long way since “Black Pirate” (Douglas Fairbanks, 1926), “Captain Blood” (Errol Flynn, 1935), and “Black Beard the Pirate” (Robert Newton and the delicious Linda Darnell, 1952)…or has she?

Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest seems to fall in the category of fantasy/science fiction set in the 18th century. But maybe I’m expecting too much. It’s a PIRATE MOVIE, for goodness sakes! Actually, to date, it’s two pirate movies with a third in the fridge.

You will likely find something in the film you like. Just don’t be surprised if you have the urge to shower as soon as you get home.

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Wayne Aronsen
Sources: Image property of Disney.

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