Monday, July 17, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (The Ten Point Review)

1- Having read the reviews, my expectations were low. This freed me to enjoy the diminished pleasures of the sequel. This is hardly a recommendation.

2- Sequels are tough business and it’s the rare movie that either equals or betters what came before. Dead Man’s Chest doesn’t make the grade, but that’s not such a surprise. Matching the energy and freshness of the original would have been damned near impossible.

3- Imagine, if you will, that the Coen brothers decided to do a sequel to O Brother, Where Art Thou? Imagine trying to match the joy of first hearing George Clooney’s hilarious hayseed with intellectual pretensions or just the sheer surprise of seeing the film for the first time. It would be foolish to try to match the experience and unlikely to succeed.

4- Dead Man’s Chest is something like that; in the first POTC, discovering Captain Jack Sparrow for the first time is a thrill. The jokes are spot on, the action flows perfectly, and the characters are great. A sequel was almost destined to fail because Jack Sparrow is now a familiar quantity. What seemed so new in the first movie now is old hat.

5- Which isn’t to say that it had to fail as much as it did. The first two thirds move too slow and the jokes just don’t connect. There are a few funny moments, but not enough to make up for the slow motion plot.

6- And at about two and a half hours, it’s just too damned long.

7- The last third almost redeems the thing, though, with funnier moments, more fluid action, and a plot that finally starts to pull together. It’s too thin to support the weight of the whole movie, but it leaves you with some warm and fuzzy feelings.

8- Some of the creature effects are astounding. Davey Jones’ crew of sailors is a hell of a sight. They’ve taken on the characteristics of sea creatures and the ocean with results that are almost distracting and always arresting. Brilliant work.

9- I still want to be a pirate. Rum jokes make me giggle.

10- One of the few sequels to rise to the level of its predecessor was Empire Strikes Back. In most ways, I would consider it to be a better movie than Star Wars, although, if pressed, I would name Star Wars as my favorite of the series. The same principle applies to movies as to sex: there is nothing like the excitement of a new discovery. The stuff that follows may be, ahem, technically better, but the first time is special. It’s also telling that George Lucas simply couldn’t make the rest of the sequels match even the level of Empire.

Bonus Point- Which is a lot of words to say just a few things: Dead Man’s Chest is merely a decent movie that doesn’t compare particularly well to Pirates. I still enjoyed it, though, and look forward to watching the third movie--but my expectations won’t be particularly high. And that’s the curse of the big budget sequel.

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