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July 5, 2006 > Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Directed by Gore Verbinski

by Jeremy Inman

Friday will mark Disney's second foray into the pirate-riddled, swashbuckling depths of the seven seas with the release of the sequel to the 2003's wildly popular Pirates of the Caribbean, based on the theme park ride of the same name.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest chronicles the further adventures of Jack Sparrow, Captain of the Black Pearl and infamous scalawag, as he attempts to swindle his way out of a debt to the legendary Davy Jones - a debt that can only be paid with Jack's soul. To complicate matters, William Turner and Elizabeth Swann are interrupted on their wedding night by the relentless Lord Cutler Beckett: head of the East India Trading Company who's also bent on ridding the seas of pirates - by employing them.

Beckett makes Turner - and the soon to be Mrs. Turner - a deal; acquire Jack's legendary compass which points toward the object the wearer most desires (in this case, the dead man's chest) or die at the gallows for aiding in the escape of a known pirate: specifically Jack. The compass becomes the solution to the problems of all parties involved: Captain Jack, Will Turner, and Lord Beckett. The problem is that their agendas are mutually exclusive. One man's success leads to the demise or damnation of the others. Double - and triple crosses ensue as these seafarers combat an ocean's worth of obstacles, bad guys and each other in search of the dead man's chest.

For the most part, the plot of Dead Man's Chest gets audiences where they need to go even if it is a little convoluted. After all, what's a pirate movie without double crossing and betrayal? It's a Maltese Falcon of the sea with swords and boats. We're introduced to a variety of interesting characters, both new and old, including the fabled Davy Jones and even Will's father, Bootstrap Bill - all entertaining and fitting for the story. And we're taken on a wild ride packed with action, adventure and just the right amount of the supernatural, much like the first film.

Actually, little is different this time around. Captain Jack Sparrow is still a conniving, self-interested pirate, Elizabeth Swann is still a tough-as-nails Governor's daughter, and Will Turner is still a reluctant adventurer. The decision to make a sequel was obviously a matter of marketing. Much like the Matrix trilogy, the studio took a well-made, successful, standalone film which wrapped up nicely and continued it into a sequel by introducing a few clever new elements. It even ends in a nasty cliffhanger.

A sequel is supposed to give you a little something new while maintaining familiar elements from the original; this way it feels like a cohesive franchise rather than an entirely different, standalone film. Dead Man's Chest feels like the same film. Much of the action is replicated or exaggerated from the first film; almost all of the characters reappear, and none of them really evolve or go to any places emotionally that we didn't see them go to in the first film.

However, unlike the Matrix sequels, Dead Man's Chest is actually good. Lucky for Disney, a repeat of the first Pirates isn't necessarily a bad thing. Dead Man's Chest retains all of the charm and humor of the first film, thanks largely to the finely-tuned performance of its leading man, Johnny Depp. In 2003, Depp crafted perhaps one of the most universally-loved original characters in a long time, earning himself, among other accolades, an Oscar nomination. Depp's Captain Jack returns in rare form this time accompanied by adequate, if not second fiddle performances from Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom. Bill Nighy turns in an interesting and villainous performance as squid-faced Davy Jones who scours the seas in search of Jack and a way to stop others from reaching the dead man's chest which contains something very dear to him...

While Dead Man's Chest is obviously a studio's effort to milk more money out of a successful franchise, it's going to be worth it for audiences to pour their hard-earned doubloons into this one. It's got enough humor, high seas adventure, and good old "yo ho" pirate lore to keep audience landlubbers wowed and swashbucklers subdued until Pirates of the Caribbean: World's End releases in 2007.

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