Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2-Disc Special Edition)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
9 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann
Bill Nighy as Davy Jones
Stellan Skarsgård as 'Bootstrap' Bill Turner
Jack Davenport as Commodore James Norrington
Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs
Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma
Jonathan Pryce as Governor Weatherby Swann
Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti
Tom Hollander as Lord Cutler Beckett
Lee Arenberg as Pintel
David Bailie as Cotton
Anthony Patricio as Cannibal
Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa

Special Features:
Commentary by screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio
Bloopers of the Caribbean
Charting the Return: A preproduction diary
According to Plan: hour-long production documentary
Captain Jack: From Head to Toe
Mastering the Blade
Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend
Creating the Kraken
Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction
Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage
Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer's Photo Diary
Pirates on Main Street: The Dead Man's Chest Premiere
Easter Eggs

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Region 1
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
THX-Certified, Including THX Optimode
French Subtitles
Running Time: 143 Minutes

The Story:
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is the sequel to the 2003 film "The Curse of the Black Pearl."

Sometime after the first film, Captain Jack Sparrow desperately looks for a special key. Little does his crew know, but Sparrow owes a debt to Davy Jones, the supernatural ruler of the seas. He's looking for the key as a way to get out of having to pay his debt. However, the crew figures out their predicament soon enough as the octopus-faced Jones and his creepy crew chase Sparrow down.

Davy Jones isn't the only one looking for our shady Captain. After having been arrested by the British government for aiding in the escape of Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are blackmailed into helping track down the Captain. Lord Cutler Beckett forces them to find Sparrow and obtain a magical compass from him in exchange for pardons. But who will find Sparrow first?

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.

The Movie:
Simply put, if you liked the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, you're probably going to enjoy the sequel. It has everything that made the first film so much fun. You have fantastic swordfights, creepy bad guys created with stunning special effects, romance, drama, comedy, and Captain Jack Sparrow in top form. (The first film is also required viewing. You won't follow what's going on in this sequel if you didn't see its predecessor.)

I've heard this referred to as "The Empire Strikes Back" of the "Pirates" series and that's a pretty accurate description. Captain Jack Sparrow has that rogue's charm like Han Solo, Will Turner is like Luke, and Elizabeth comes across a lot like Princess Leia. The heroes of both films separate and go on different adventures. And among other similarities, both movies end with big cliffhangers.

Another similarity is that both movies have a fantastic villain. Davy Jones is destined to be a classic movie bad guy. His look (and that of his henchmen) is utterly stunning. The special effects used for his tentacles are some of the best use of CGI that I've seen in a long time. Jones' tentacles twitch with his mood, he breathes pipe smoke out the sides of his face, and he looks like a true creature from the sea. He's also more than a two-dimensional bad guy. Once or twice you think he might actually relent and have a heart after all, then he does something truly brutal. Davy Jones ends up being one of the highlights of this summer's movies.

That being said, Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is the true star of this film. Like in the first movie, he absolutely steals every scene he's in as the quirky pirate. I think this is the first time Depp has reprised a role from a previous film and I'm certainly glad he did. From the moment he appears on screen, it's like seeing an old friend again. This time around we get to see even more from him as he struggles between being a despicable pirate and a true hero while stumbling through scenery. This is really Sparrow's film and he doesn't disappoint.

The rest of the cast is good, but like in the previous film they're all in the shadow of Depp as Sparrow. Orlando Bloom gets a fair amount of action as Will Turner. His character also receives an interesting revelation that ups the stakes for him. Keira Knightley is stunning again as Elizabeth Swann. She goes on one particular tirade towards the end of the film that is quite funny, but her final darker moments in the film are what she'll really be remembered for. Stellan Skarsgård has a great cameo as 'Bootstrap' Bill Turner.

"Dead Man's Chest" also features that great mix of comedy and horror that makes these films such a fun thrill ride. In fact, the slapstick is amplified quite a bit this time around. A scene where the pirates face off with some cannibals (incorrectly placed in the Caribbean) features enough physical comedy to make the Three Stooges proud. But thanks to Depp's performance it all seems perfectly natural and you're willing to go along for the ride.

After leaving the music of the first film up to Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer jumps back into the spotlight for the sequel. He does a great job and creates an impressive score. Themes for the Kraken and Davy Jones particularly stand out, but the action scenes also feature great reprisals of the original themes.

On a final note, make sure you stay through the end of the film in order to see the final fate of one of the characters.

I had no real problem with this film. It was funny, exciting, and a great movie-going experience. If anything, I only have nitpicks. While the vast majority of the effects looked fantastic, some of the Kraken effects weren't quite up to par. Some of the tentacles didn't look quite right while others looked very realistic. And unfortunately the cliffhanger ending is a little bit of a disappointment. The movie doesn't feel like it has any real closure and it ends on a bit of a down note. I also wish they had put a sneak preview of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" at the end of this film. I wonder if people know there will be a third film coming next year.

The Extras:
As you might hope, this DVD is jam packed with extras. Unfortunately there's nothing on the music from the film, but everything else is pretty well covered. Here's what you'll find:

Commentary by screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio – Too bad the main actors couldn't take part in the commentary, but the writers do their best to fill in.

Bloopers of the Caribbean – Your standard blooper reel is included here (brought to you by Verizon wireless! Hooray for product placement!)

Charting the Return: A preproduction diary – This half hour featurette covers the tortuous pre-production of the film. They discuss developing the film…without a script. They show all the pressure the crew feels, minor arguments that take place, slashes in the budget, and more. It's a real detailed, warts-and-all look at pre-production. I was quite impressed by it.

According to Plan: hour-long production documentary – This is an incredibly detailed look at the production of the film. It talks a lot about the challenges of shooting in remote locations, the logistics of bringing a major motion picture to small islands, and the problems caused by weather. You see the beach location that flooded periodically with the tide, a small grotto the actors waded into where they filmed one of the scenes, a hurricane hit the set, and more. It really makes you appreciate all the work put into the production.

Captain Jack: From Head to Toe – This series of featurettes highlight Captain Jack's costume, props, and makeup. It discusses everything from the beads in his hair to the fabric in his shirt. This is also where you'll find some of the few interviews with Johnny Depp.

Mastering the Blade – You get to see three short featurettes showing sword practice for Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, and Jack Davenport.

Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend – This was probably my favorite of the bonus features. I was absolutely amazed by ILM's effects for Davy Jones and this featurette with John Knoll breaks down how it was done. This was really a leap forward for CG characters.

Creating the Kraken – Here you'll see the CG effects and practical effects used to bring the Kraken to life. From sliming Johnny Depp to destroying ships, it's all here.

Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction – This featurette shows how the Disney ride was updated with characters from the movie. You also see Depp rather awkwardly riding the ride for the publicity department.

Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage – This is some raw footage of Orlando Bloom and the other actors swinging in the bone cage in front of a blue screen. One, of course, throws up.

Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer's Photo Diary – Now a standard feature on Bruckheimer DVDs, we get a look at the production from the producer's camera lens.

Pirates on Main Street: The Dead Man's Chest Premiere – Here you get to see the red carpet premiere that took place at Disneyland with a 2000 ft carpet rolled down Main Street USA.

Easter Eggs – Several Easter Eggs can be found throughout the DVD. You'll see featurettes on the set painters, caterers, a guy that chops down coconuts from trees, and the actors playing the twin crew members on Davy Jones' ship.

The Bottom Line:
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is yet another great addition to the series. If you liked the first film, you'll enjoy this.

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