Plot: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) seems to always stumble one step ahead of those who chase him down, but an old debt is being called in and this is one pursuit even Sparrow can’t hide from. His blood debt to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) allowed him to serve as captain for a spell, but that time has elapsed and now Sparrow knows he must live up to his end of the agreement. The lone hope for his freedom is to track down Jones’ heart, but he will need help to even have a chance and at the moment, his allies seem to be mired in their own concerns. Can Sparrow once again assemble a crew and convince his old friends Will (Orlando Bloom) and Swann (Keira Knightley) to join his cause, even as they face their own issues?
Entertainment Value: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a wild, over the top, and often manic adventure, a movie that seemed to value fun and spectacle above all else. In this sequel, we see similar threads, but Dead Man’s Chest doesn’t have the same infectious, fun at all costs texture of the original. The tone is still light and there’s some big, splashy adventure set pieces, but it feels more like a traditional summer blockbuster, whereas the original had that oddball magic at times. The triple threat duel sequence is a great action scene, but I wish the rest of the movie had that same vibe, instead of a more generic approach. Even so, Dead Man’s Chest has more to offer than most of its peers and while it lacks the manic attitude of the original, it has solid humor, big set pieces, and an impressive scale of action/adventure elements. The production values are also fantastic, with beautiful costumes, locations, set design, and better than average visual effects, even the CGI is mostly decent here. And the Kraken sequence alone is enough fun to warrant a look, even if you don’t love the franchise.
While Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is still a lot of fun and the main draw for the series, he dials up his performance here to almost parody levels, which seems a little premature for the franchise’s second film. He was manic and unhinged in the first movie, but it felt natural to the character, a Sparrow is an unpredictable and manic kind of persona. But here it seems like Depp tries to turn Sparrow into a cartoon of sorts and again, he is still fun to watch, but this approach drains some of the unique charm from the role. Keira Knightley is given more to do this time out and she makes great use of that potential, in one of the movie’s brightest performances, while Orlando Bloom is like watching paint dry as the dull, forgettable Will. Bill Nighy also has a terrific role here, while Jonathan Pryce, Geoffrey Rush, Stellan Skarsgard, Jack Davenport, and Mackenzie Crook also have prominent parts.