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PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgard, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Jonathan Pryce
Director: Gore Verbinski
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 150 Minutes
Release Date: December 5, 2006

“Oh bugger…”

Film ***1/2

If anything, 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a watershed blockbuster release. No one was expecting the film to become the monster success that it was. But thankfully, audiences all around the world embraced the picture and not since the likes of The Matrix was a follow up anticipated more intensely.

Three summers later it was officially proven that the first film’s success was no fluke, as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest went on to become not just the biggest box office smash of 2006, but of all time as well. It set an amazing opening weekend record in the form of $135 million, and went on to take in more than $400 million in the U.S. alone. It’s true that box office figures are irrelevant to the true success of a film, but honestly…that is something of an achievement.

And let’s be honest, this franchise deserves to be the incredible blockbuster series that it is, and for multiple reasons. First off, The Curse of the Black Pearl was one of the most astounding adventure movies to ever reach the silver screen since the days of Indiana Jones. It was such an effortlessly made action epic with spectacle, razor sharp wit, and a truly one of a kind performance from Johnny Depp, who has made his Captain Jack Sparrow one of the most iconic characters in movie history.

To make the news even better, Dead Man’s Chest is just as exhilarating an experience as its predecessor. Even as the film’s set up accompanies nearly the first hour of the movie, it never begins to bore for a second. What’s more, the remaining hour and a half is a spectacularly executed series of nonstop action, thrills, twists and turns. Which leads to another interesting fact about the Pirates series, which is that at such a lengthy running time, both movies never run out of steam or even come close to boring the viewer. Not many films are capable of such an execution.

The story picks up with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) about to be married. But they’re wedding plans are interrupted when the two are arrested. The charges are helping with the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp). In order to avoid execution, they must agree to help locate Jack and advise him to hand over the magic compass he has in his possession.

Jack, meanwhile, has problems of his own. Actually, he has a monstrosity of a problem. He has become the target of the deadly Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a part human, part squid Pirate who vows to own Captain Jack’s soul as part of a debt. Jack is searching for a mysterious key that will unlock the even more mysterious Dead Man’s Chest. Jones is also on a hunt for the same key, but for a different reason.

Once the plot is set in motion, Dead Man’s Chest becomes the ultimate cinematic movie ride, and moving at such an effortless pace. It’s one crazy action sequence after another (including one of the most amazing swordfights I’ve ever seen), and a lot of it infused with a high dose of comedy, a lot of which incorporated by Captain Jack’s reputation for being not the brightest bulb on the planet.

And just like the first film, Dead Man’s Chest is loaded with some of the most amazing visual effects to be seen in a single movie. The appearance of Davy Jones and his dreaded crew offers a special sight for the eyes, as does the sight of his vessel, Kraken. While many will state that effects surpass that of the first one, I think it’s of equal quality, simply because the sight of the cursed pirates in and out of the moonlight is still a stunning thing to look at.

Such as the case was with the two Matrix sequels, Dead Man’s Chest is the first in a two-part follow up. It’s kind of good that it was done this way since this first sequel offers enough thrills and spills for three movies. It manages to conclude with more than one spectacular cliffhanger ending, making way for the second sequel, At World’s End, which will sail into theaters this upcoming summer.

Without question, if you were blown away by the first one, prepare for the same jolt of entertainment with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It continues the high level of enthralling entertainment ignited by its predecessor and Johnny Depp is at his ultimately zany best in his signature role!

Video ****

The movie is an endless visual spectacle, and Disney doesn’t hesitate in making sure that this is indeed one of the best looking discs of the year. There are so many different sets in the movie, and whether dark or light, the anamorphic picture excels in amazing digital video perfection. Colors are astounding as well, adding even more to the picture. The first movie was one of the best looking discs of 2003, and this one is indeed one of the best looking of 2006!

Audio ****

Though I was anticipating a strong DTS track like what was featured on the first movie’s release, the 5.1 mix gets the job done and then some. Sound is present at a high level from beginning to end. Whether it’s simple dialogue delivery, the amazing action numbers or Hans Zimmer’s larger than life music score, the playback quality will astound the senses. Certainly a reference disc of superb sound quality for the year!

Features ****

WHAT A PACKAGE! The 2-Disc Special Edition is without question the version the true DVD collector should go with.

Disc One includes a commentary track with screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, an outtake reel titled “Bloopers of the Caribbean” and Sneak Peek trailers for additional Disney theatrical and DVD releases.

Disc Two contains even more booty (pardon the expression). Endless documentaries including “Captain Jack: Head to Toe”, “Meet Davy Jones”, “Mastering the Blade”, “Charting The Return (A Pre-Production Diary)”, “According To Plan: Journal of Filming the Movie”, “Fly On The Set Featurette: The Bone Cage”, “Creating The Kraken”, “Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering The Attraction”,  “Pirates On Main Street: The World Premiere” and “A Producer's Photo Diary with Jerry Bruckheimer”.

So in other words, there’s a lot of treasure to keep one occupied!

Summary:

Fun doesn’t even begin to describe Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Without a doubt one of the most highly entertaining movies of the year, as well as one of the best all around DVD releases. It certainly is a treasure feast of an entertainment package!

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