I sincerely hope that Gore Verbinski's career doesn't end up swinging from the yard arm of what has become his Pirates Trilogy. This franchise, when all is said and done, will end up making more money than any three movies in history, and it will definitely be a life changing experience for him. He'll either end up doing Disney movies for the rest of his life, or he'll beat the odds and end up becoming this generation's Francis Ford Coppola, turning in a string of finely-tuned independent films that make absolutely no money, but are very good anyway. Time will tell.
The first movie was a grand adventure that encompassed three of my favorite things. It had zombies, always good, it had pirates, mostly always good, unless they are in any way associated with Roman Polanski. (Not that I dislike Roman's work, it's just that even he makes the occasional expensive piece of crap.)(Also, while I'm on a roll here with this long sidebar, a special slap upside his pointy little head, and a hearty "What the hell were you thinking!" to Steven Spielberg for Hook.) Anyway, the other thing the first Pirates movie had was the monkey. Best of all, Verbinski had the genius idea to combine all three elements to make a zombie pirate monkey. I was in heaven, the only thing missing from that movie is ninjas.
Of course the monkey is back, and still operating under the curse of the Aztec gold, which makes for some satisfying minor mayhem. Everybody else is back too, for much, much more of the same. Two and a half hours of more of the same, to be exact. Verbinski could have easily chopped 45 minutes out of this film and it would have worked just fine. The principles are all in different places in their lives... sort of. Elizabeth and Will are set to be married... big shocker there, and Captain Jack Sparrow is still... well, he's still Captain Jack. There isn't a lot of character development in this one, and that's a shame. After all the movie was two and a half hours long, plenty of time for some character building. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest seems to know it has a winning formula, and it sticks to it like a barnacle to the underside of a ship. Will is appropriately noble, Elizabeth is appropriately bold and brassy and willing to do what she feels is necessary to save the day, and Jack is... well, Jack.
The action and the special effects are appropriately amped up in true Jerry Bruckheimer fashion. I had problems with the triple swordfight scene, which suffers from a disturbing lack of witty banter, but it's still interesting. ILM takes a giant leap forward in its neverending quest to replace pesky actors, by turning in some of the best motion-capture CGI to date. Bill Nighly joins Andy Serkis as the best actor not appearing in this film, as the frightening, tragic, and completely CGI Davey Jones. The best part of the movie in my book is the introduction of Tia Dalma, the voodoo witch who somehow convinced the Disneyland park rangers that it was okay for her to take up permanent residence in the Blue Bayou ride. (When I mentioned moving in, they just chuckled nervously and asked to see my entry receipt. Good thing for them I don't know any voodoo.) Played by Naomie Harris (who is just as foxy in 28 Days Later, except with better teeth), Tia gets to be the confident and wise sage, and gets to set everything up for the next film. I like the introduction of the voodoo element to the Pirates mythology. I've always felt that voodoo and pirates go well together, and it's nice to see that Ted Eliot and Terry Rossio, the crack commando scriptwriting team, agree with me.
The ramp-up of the Will-Elizabeth-Jack love triangle is just weird. It doesn't play well, mostly I think, because of the actors involved. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom have an on screen chemistry together that's spotty at best, and unfortunately they're up against Johnny Depp who has excellent chemistry with Orlando, Keira, Naomie Harris, almost all of the incidental characters he interacts with, and the big jar of dirt. Hopefully the third movie will give Will and Elizabeth a bit of time away from Captain Jack, and enough time to work out their issues, or even better kill one of them off. Either way, I have no doubt that once I see the third Pirates movie, I will be firmly convinced that this is most likely the best movie trilogy ever made.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is not the best movie, especially when compared to the first one, however, it is a passable second act of a trilogy. I wasn't happy with The Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers, Scream 2, The Matrix Reloaded, or Back to the Future 2 either. Trilogies are tricky things and I've found that it's usually best to hold off final judgment until all the dice are on the table. Having said that, I'll give Pirates DMC a big, "we'll see" until after I've seen World's End. I doubt I'll be disappointed. After all, it'll still have pirates, zombies and monkeys. Hell, if they can squeeze a ninja in there somewhere, it really will be the perfect movie trilogy.