Throwback Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest

Another weekend means another Pirates of the Caribbean movie viewing as a family. In the years since I’d seen Dead Man’s Chest, I’d forgotten how long of movie it is. We had to watch it in two parts. All the same, it is a fun romp with lots of action.

The Story

Just like the first movie, Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest revolves around an object instead of a specific main character. You guessed it, it’s literally the dead man’s chest or rather, the chest that Davy Jones keeps his heart in.

It seems Captain Jack Sparrow made a deal with Davy Jones and now it’s time to pay. Jack will do anything, including barter with other people’s lives, to escape his fate — one hundred years of forced service before the mast of the the Flying Dutchmen. He drags Will into this, hoping that Davy Jones will take him as a replacement, and fails.

Desperate to find a way out, Jack consults with the voodoo priestess, Tia Dalma, who reveals that Davy Jones weakness is the chest where he has placed his heart to escape the pain of love gone wrong. Whoever has the heart controls Davy Jones. If you can control Davy Jones, you control the sea.

Lord Beckett knows this and wants to use the heart as leverage for the profit of the East India Company. He arrests Will and Elizabeth just before their wedding and manipulates Will to go after Jack’s enchanted compass – the tool he believes will lead him to the secret hiding place of the dead man’s chest.

This is where Will is stuck in a giant knot of issues. He’s trying to get the compass so he can barter for Elizabeth’s freedom. While he’s at it, Jack shanghais him on the Flying Dutchman where he discovers his long lost father is one of the cursed crew on Davy Jones ship and wants to free him. Now he must find a way to save them both and he has zero resources other than his own courage.

Of course, Elizabeth isn’t going to sit this one out. The second she’s freed from prison by her father, she forces Lord Barrett to give her the Letters of Marque meant to pardon the individual who holds them. She then sneaks onboard another ship and directs it to Tortuga with hopes of finding Jack. If she can find Jack, she can find Will. Instead she finds Norrington, the man she was meant to marry in the first movie. He’s lost his commission and standing in the navy and hit rock bottom. He reasons that if he finds the compass for Lord Beckett first, he might win his position back.

All these story lines crash back together at Isla Cruces, where the chest is buried. A brilliant three way sword fight breaks out between Will, Jack, and Norrington to determine who ends up with the heart.

Did I mention there’s also a kraken?

My Review

Dead Man’s Chest has all the elements we came to love in Curse of the Black Pearl. There are lots of pirates doing their morally grey best to get by. There are also pirates who are monsters as they are more sea creature than human. There is an object that everyone has to get their hands on but for very different reasons. And, there’s a love story of two people trying to protect each other, usually by attempting to sacrifice themselves instead.

It’s still fun, but it suffers from sequel syndrome. The elements we love are there, but they aren’t new and exciting anymore so they can’t shine as brightly as they did in the first movie. There are fewer surprises as we know what to expect from the different characters. The characters themselves are stuck in a position where it feels like they they don’t have an important internal lesson to learn and instead are trying to fix a situation.

While it’s entertaining, it doesn’t have the wow factor of the first. The kiddos still enjoyed it but weren’t as into it as before. And, like I said, it’s really long.

Recommendations

If you liked the first Pirates movie, you’ll like the second. Probably not quite as much, but all the good stuff is still there. There’s amazing settings, great costumes, characters doing their thing, and enough complexity and conflict to keep things interesting.

I’d say it’s still better for older kids than younger ones because of the whole sea creature monster pirate element as well as a very realistic heart being in that box. Add to that the kraken attack scenes, and there is quite a lot of intense violence. That, and because the story is fairly complicated, younger audiences might struggle to know what’s going on and why it matters. But, that said, there’s enough action and crazy things going on that they might not care.

I give Dead Man’s Chest 3 out of 5 stars for being entertaining, but not surprising.


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Throwback Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl

It’s been seventeen years since the debut of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which means this movie has been around as long as my marriage. A few years ago we tried to show this to my kids and they decidedly didn’t like it. It was too spooky, had freaky skeleton pirates, and required attention to small details like the dialogue. This last weekend we put it to the test again — and they loved it.

The Story

In short, the main character of this story is actually the pirate vessel the Black Pearl herself. It is the boat itself that has influenced everyone in the story and driven the leading characters to make unexpected choices. Elizabeth rescues Will Turner from the Black Pearl when he’s young. Captain Jack Sparrow was the captain of the Pearl until there was a mutiny. The crew of the Pearl became cursed when they got greedy and took Cortez’s treasure.

The rest of the story is spent restoring these characters back to where they belong. Elizabeth needs to end up with Will Turner. Will needs to come to terms with his father being a pirate and still a good man. Jack needs to get his boat back. And, the crew needs to get uncursed.

What’s interesting is how each of these pieces become woven together. Elizabeth gets involved in the curse when she steals Will’s necklace, which is a piece of the Cortez treasure. Will should have always been part of the pirate crew because of his father, but only gets involved after Elizabeth is taken by the new captain of the Black Pearl, Barbossa.

In the end, the story is delightfully twisty. First we are shown all these pieces of each character and then in the last third of the story we see how each of these pieces snap together in interesting ways and everyone gets what they deserve, just not in the way you’d expect.

My Review

This is a fun movie that’s both full of action and heart. Even though this is a pirate story, Elizabeth and Will both face problems that are very relatable to the audience. As an adult there is plenty of dramatic elements and complexity to keep things interesting and for my kids there was enough slapstick humor and action to make it fun.

The sets are incredible, the costume design intricate and fascinating, and even though it’s campy and silly, the acting is actually pretty good.

My Recommendations

This is a great family movie, provided that all are old enough to not be scared by the pirates turning into skeletons and are willing to track what’s happening so it all makes sense. It’s clean, no swearing or overly graphic violence. Yes, there’s plenty of fun fighting and sword play, but very few depictions of blood.

If a kid’s old enough to be okay with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, they should be fine for the movie.

I rate Curse of the Black Pearl 5/5 stars, super fun, lots of eye candy, and it’s exactly what it set out to be – a great pirate movie.


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