Dir: Gore Verbinski. US. 2006. 151mins.
Coming three years after the originalride-turned-movie dug up a hoard of summer box office gold, the second voyageof Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer's PiratesOf The Caribbean franchise is bigger, longer and more spectacular than itspredecessor but at the same time less breezily entertaining. The novelty value -of the swashbuckling adventure genre itself and of Johnny Depp'samusing star turn as the roguish Jack Sparrow - that helped push The Curse Of TheBlack Pearl to a $654m worldwide gross will inevitably be diminished forthe sequel, and word of mouth may not be as strong either. But franchiserecognition - Depp and several of his originalco-stars are back for Dead Man's Chest- should make up most of the difference, giving Disney another global hit andpreparing the ground for the release next summer of the series' third instalment.
Buena Vista opens the sequelthis weekend in the US, the UK and Australia and then launches it into the restof the world through July and August. In the US, the PG-13 rated romp follows Superman Returns by just over a week andwill face an ongoing tussle with Warner's superhero movie for the broad familyaudience.
In the internationalmarketplace (where Curse took themajority of its overall haul) the pirates arrive in a number of territorieseither soon before or soon after the Man of Steel. With its gorgeous locationsand Brit-heavy international cast, the Buena Vista film could have asignificant international edge over its superhero rival.
Returning screenwriters TedElliott and Terry Rossio pick up a couple of threadsfrom their earlier script but quickly intertwine them with new plot strands.Black Pearl captain Sparrow, it transpires, owes a Faustian debt to Davy Jones(Nighy), captain of the ghostly Flying Dutchman andmaster of terrifying sea monster the Kraken. To avoid damnation, Jack goeshunting for the film's titular chest, which holds the key to Jones' power. Thechest, however, is also being sought by dashing sailor Will Turner (Bloom), areluctant employee of the imperialistic East India Trading Company. And Will isbeing followed by his feisty fiancee Elizabeth Swann (Knightley).
The confusing excess of plotmaterial weighs down the film's first hour and the emphasis on intrigue anddrama doesn't leave much room for the sort of romance and humour that made thefirst film so refreshing.
Later on, the emphasisshifts to slapstick comedy and action. Returning director Gore Verbinski assembles some impressively elaborate set piecesbut the action often feels over-orchestrated and the comedy sometimes seems forced. And the sheer volume of material included extendsthe film's running time to almost two-and-a-half hours.
More successful are thefilm's use of its Caribbean locations and the effects-based sequences thatbecome more frequent as the plot progresses. Davy Jones - a sneering tyrantwith octopus tentacles for a beard - and his half-man, half-fish crew aregenuinely scary creations and, though we never see the monster in full, theKraken attacks are nicely staged.
Depp repeats his Keith Richards-inspired portrayal ofJack Sparrow - which was nominated for a best Oscar and Golden Globe first timeround - as an endearingly amoral and slightly fey buccaneer. The character ismore central to the story in the sequel and perhaps for that reason isn't quiteas much fun to watch now.
Though he gets plenty ofscreen time, returning co-star Bloom's character is less central in the sequel.Knightley - who was almost an unknown when sheappeared in the first film - is more prominent and her character's developingrelationship with Jack Sparrow adds a note of sexual tension to the story.
Among the new cast members,Bill Nighy (from Love,Actually) makes effective use of his eyes and a menacing Scottish accent toproject through the heavy make-up and digital effects used to bring Davy Jonesto life. Stellan Skarsgard(King Arthur) appears as a barnacledmember of Jones' crew, Tom Hollander (Pride& Prejudice) plays an East India Company official, and Naomie Harris (28Days Later) has a small part as Sparrow's supernatural advisor.
The sequel's final scenesets the stage for the already-shooting third Pirates movie, in which Geoffrey Rush's Curse Of The Black Pearl villain Barbarossawill apparently make a welcome return to the story.
Walt Disney Pictures
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Buena Vista International
Visual effects supervisor