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Movie Review: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

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Synopsis

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are in big trouble after helping to free Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the gallows. Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) wants Jack Sparrow apprehended, so he locks up Elizabeth and sends Will on a quest to find the pirate. Jack Sparrow, however, has plans of his own. He has been cryptic when telling his crew what he is after, but his current goal is to find the key to open the Dead Man's Chest. Years ago, Jack made a deal with none other than Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). It is now time for Davy Jones to collect, and that is something that Jack would very much like to avoid. Thus, he is on a quest to obtain the chest that contains Davy Jones' heart.

Davy Jones' heart is the only thing that makes him vulnerable, so he has locked it in a chest and hidden it somewhere. Therefore, whoever manages to recover the heart could control Davy Jones, using him and his cursed crew for their own gain. For Jack Sparrow, recovering the heart means escaping his fate of having to settle his debt to Davy Jones. However, Jack is not the only one after the chest. Cutler Beckett also wants the heart to utilize Davy Jones and his crew in his own naval fleet, which would surely be the end of pirates everywhere.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Jack Sparrow (+8pts)

Cutler Beckett & The Plot (-5pts)

Davy Jones & The Flying Dutchman (+8pts)

Will Turner & Elizabeth Swann (-3pts)

The Chest (+5pts)

Norrington (-3pts)

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Pro: Jack Sparrow (+8pts)

Much like in the last movie—Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl—Jack Sparrow was one of the best things going for this movie. The filmmakers needed him to be silly in some scenes, mysterious in others, and at times even heroic. Johnny Depp mastered this character, and seemed to jump back and forth between these things like an Olympic skier taking on a heavily moguled slope. He did everything the character needed him to do and he did it well.

The silly scenes were a ton of fun. The mysterious scenes made the movie feel far more interesting. The heroic scenes gave the movie the feel of a blockbuster epic. Jack Sparrow is an interesting character, and the actor in the role needed to be able to do a lot of different things, while always feeling true to the character. Johnny Depp did that, and much like it did for the last movie, his performance as Jack Sparrow made this movie far more entertaining then it would have been without him.

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Con: Cutler Beckett & The Plot (-5pts)

Cutler Beckett and his deals got pretty annoying. His first deal with Will Turner was fine, and it made complete sense. Then he made deals with multiple other characters, and it made everything far more confusing than it should have been. It made it hard to keep track of who was trying to do what, and while I was able to make sense of everything, it required far more effort than it should have. The deals made everything far more complicated than they needed to be, but the plot itself was no better.

The movie started with Jack Sparrow looking for the key, and Will Turner looking for Jack Sparrow. Then Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman were introduced, and while I liked these things quite a bit, the plot got pretty confusing from there. Jack Sparrow went into hiding, only to come out of hiding later. Will Turner shifted his focus to the Flying Dutchman, before eventually shifting focus back to Jack Sparrow. Elizabeth Swann was then set loose by Cutler Beckett to search for Jack Sparrow as well—even though he already had Will Turner on this exact assignment—and Norrington (Jack Davenport) was also running around, shifting his loyalties whenever it was convenient for the writers. It felt like the filmmakers had a rough idea of how they wanted the story to go, then they were making the movie and decided they wanted their movie to be 30 or 40 minutes longer, so they decided to flip flop everyone‘s priorities in order to beef up the runtime. The result was a movie that ended up being unnecessarily long and unnecessarily confusing.

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Pro: Davy Jones & The Flying Dutchman (+8pts)

While they did not show up until about halfway through the movie, Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman made an impact. First, Davy Jones was pretty much invincible—except for his heart—and he could phase through walls, so you can imagine how powerful he was. He also suffered from a broken heart, which made his story feel tragic, and it gave the character an extra, humanizing layer. Finally, as powerful as he was on his own, there was the fact that he commanded the Flying Dutchman.

The Flying Dutchman was a cursed ship, much like the Black Pearl was in the last movie. The crew were a bunch of invincible sea creature people, that were serving sentences on the ship. If people were dying and feared death, Davy Jones may give them the opportunity to serve him instead, which would save them from death indefinitely. Additionally, if people made deals with Davy Jones—like Jack Sparrow did—and did not deliver their end of the bargain, they would owe Davy Jones a debt, which could be settled through however many years of service Davy Jones decided on. This was interesting because, in addition to the crew being powerful and having the monstrous Kraken at their disposal, the different ways one could end up in Davy Jones' crew made it feel like both a blessing and a curse, depending on your perspective. To some, it was a way to cheat death, and to others, it was a prison-like eternity of service. All of this came together to make Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchmen a great antagonist for this movie, as he was both formidable and compelling.

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Con: Will Turner & Elizabeth Swann (-3pts)

It did not feel like the filmmakers knew what to do with the romance between these two characters in this movie. Although perhaps they just did not want to write for this romance anymore. Either way, the filmmakers separated these two pretty quickly. They then shifted Will’s focus to trying to save another character, and they shifted Elizabeth’s focus to desiring something other than simply Will.

Having complex main characters is fine, and it is actually a good thing. However, the filmmakers did not really develop their complexity. They basically established that both characters were conflicted, and they just left it at that until the climax of the story. If the filmmakers had instead spent more screentime developing their inner conflicts, and showing their respective growths, it would have made the characters a lot more interesting, and it would have made the climax more engaging. Instead, I knew that both characters were conflicted, but I had no idea—and I did not really care—which way they would end up going in the end.

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Pro: The Chest (+5pts)

Everyone being after Davy Jones' chest made the character feel really important. Even taking ignoring what Davy Jones did and was able to do, having both Cutler Beckett and Jack Sparrow obsessing over the chest made it clear to the audience that Davy Jones was a big deal. Cutler Beckett, someone who clearly already had a lot of power in the British Navy, knew that controlling Davy Jones would be a true game changer. Jack Sparrow, someone who we had seen coming up with master plans to overcome his enemies, was after the chest as well, knowing that controlling Davy Jones would make him untouchable. Thus, we had two major characters gunning for the chest. This made Davy Jones feel vulnerable and desperate, but it also made him feel like a true threat.

However, the effectiveness of the chest went deeper than just making Davy Jones feel powerful and important. It also gave this movie a fun, scavenger-hunt storyline with a clear objective. Pretty much every character wanted the chest for a different reason, which made everything feel hectic and unpredictable. It also made this movie feel like an intense, engaging race to the chest. I had some issues with this movie, but I thought the chest was a very effective objective for this story.

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Con: Norrington (-3pts)

Much like in the last movie, I thought Norrington was an unnecessary character here. He was just kind of there, and he had no unique motives. He still had a thing for Elizabeth, but so did Will. He was an outcast captain, but so was Jack Sparrow. He had a grudge against Jack Sparrow, but so did Cutler Beckett. There was literally nothing about this character's motivations that were unique, and he was just a bland character all around. Given all of this, I think the filmmakers would have been better off just taking this guy out of the story all together, and giving the plot a minor rewrite.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (85pts)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was not an incredible movie, but it set the bar pretty high for its sequels. While I did not think Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was quite as good as the last movie, it was still a good movie. Johnny Depp was back as Jack Sparrow, and that alone should be enough for you to give this movie a shot. However, this movie also had a great antagonist with Davy Jones.

Davy Jones had a tragic story, which made him a compelling character, but he was also an extremely powerful cursed pirate captain, and he commanded the Flying Dutchmen and the monstrous Kraken. He was a great antagonist for this movie, and the chest that contained his heart provided the story with a clear objective, and a suspenseful race to it. Unfortunately, I thought the filmmakers handled Will Turner, Elizaveth Swann, and Norrington poorly. I also thought Cutler Beckett and his deals made this movie a lot more complicated than it needed to be. The movie’s weaknesses were too significant to be ignored all together, but I thought its strengths were enough to make this a strong sequel for this franchise nonetheless.

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