J.D. Lafrance
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: Collector’s Edition DVD Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: Collector’s Edition

October 8, 2006

Director: Gore Verbinski,
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Lee Arenberg,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

While no one predicted the phenomenal success of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film (2003), the success of the sequel was pretty much a slam dunk provided that the filmmakers didn’t mess around with the formula too much. They didn’t. In fact, they gave us more of the same. Much more. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) went on to surpass its predecessor at the box office and in the process smash several records to become one of the top grossing films of all time.

Right from the get-go things look pretty bleak for Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) and Will Turner (Bloom). Their wedding day has been interrupted by charges of aiding and abetting the escape of a known fugitive – Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp). The penalty is, of course, death unless Will can find Jack and bring back a compass that he has in his possession. However, Jack has problems of his own: he’s visited by Will’s dead father, “Bootstrap” Bill Turner (Skarsgard) who tells him that Davy Jones (Nighy) is looking for Jack and wants to bring him and the Black Pearl down to the murky depths of his locker for not paying a debt that he owes. Will tracks Jack down to a remote tropical island where the pirate has unwittingly become the leader of a tribe of cannibals who regard him as a god in human form. After narrowly escaping becoming dinner, Jack and Will board the Black Pearl and make a deal: Jack will help Will save Elizabeth if he helps Jack rid himself of Davy Jones’ curse.

Johnny Depp once again steals the show as the perpetually sloshed Sparrow, vamping his way through this movie with a wonderfully broad, theatrical performance. He uses his very expressive eyes and body language for maximum comedic effect. He is clearly having a blast revisiting this character and this translates into enjoyment for the audience as the versatile actor is responsible for 90% of the comedy in the movie.

Davy Jones is a beautifully grotesque creation, even more so than Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa in the first Pirates movie. Jones is a funky blend of sea creature and man, like something H.P. Lovecraft might have created if he had tried his hand at writing pirate stories. You would think that with the amount of CGI (which looks amazingly like prosthetic make-up) dedicated to Davy Jones it wouldn’t matter who played him but Bill Nighy, with his distinctive voice, brings a genuine sense of menace to the role. That being said, his elaborate make-up, with facial tentacles that writhe seemingly on their own, is truly a sight to behold.

The plot is, at times, dense and more convoluted then it needs to be. It definitely helps to be familiar with the first film because this one relies a lot on knowledge of the backstories for Jack, Will and Elizabeth. But in the end, the story is merely window-dressing for the impressive visuals, from Davy Jones’ nightmarish ship, the Flying Dutchman (it’s a floating barnacle filled with all kinds of nasty coral and bone) and the impressively staged action set pieces, each one more ambitious than the last, culminating with the eye-popping Kraken attack that evokes a similar battle in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). Dead Man’s Chest is much darker in tone than The Curse of the Black Pearl with Davy Jones being a much more ruthless bad guy and with much more at stake for our heroes. Not to mention this film ends on a cliffhanger when the Kraken decimates the Black Pearl leaving Jack’s fate very much in question. While not as good as the first Pirates movie, it is still one hell of an entertaining ride.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary by screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. They talk about how the linear screenplay they wrote differs from the more “impressionistic” approach that director Gore Verbinski took during the editing process. They mention that The Curse of the Black Pearl was intended be a stand-alone film and with the sequels they tried to tie everything together. Elliott and Rossio touch upon their desire to flesh out some of the backstory from the first film, like “Bootstrap” Bill’s tale. They also attempt to clarify the convoluted plot and explain their intentions. These guys aren’t the most dynamic speakers but this is a fairly decent track that you’ll probably only listen to once.

Also included is “Bloopers of the Caribbean,” a funny collection of blown lines and goofing around by the actors.

The second disc starts off with “Charting the Return,” which traces the origins and development of making two Pirates sequels back-to-back. The screenwriters of the original suddenly found that they had to write two films in very little time. This featurette takes us through location scouts in remote islands in the Caribbean and gives an idea of the daunting task of taking on a mega-production of this size.

“According to Plan” takes us through the production schedule, starting with day one. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer explains that the idea of doing the sequels back-to-back was to keep the highly sought actors together before they went off to do other projects. We see the challenge of shooting on water and on different boats that also include long, grueling 17-hour days.

“Captain Jack: From Head to Toe” takes us through each part of Johnny Depp’s pirate outfit, form his dreadlocks to his coat. We see how each part is put together and then fitted specifically for the actor.

“Mastering the Blade” shows Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport training for the film’s exciting sword fights. We see how they did Bloom’s flaming sword while Davenport talks about how this was a much more physically demanding role than in the previous film.

“Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend” shows how elaborate layers of CGI were used to create Jones and his men. We also see the process of how Bill Nighy undergoes this CGI transformation.

“Creating the Kraken” examines how this CGI creation was put together. The actors had to use their imagination on the set as they were being attacked by nothing. We see shots from pre-CGI all the way through to the final product with the techies showing us how they created the creature.

“Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagining the Attraction” juxtaposes footage from the classic Disneyland ride with the new version that incorporates elements from the movies. It’s a shame that they have to “enhance” this already perfect ride.

“Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage” takes a look at how they shot the bone cage sequence and how much fun it was for the actors. It looks like a big ride, although we see one actor get sick.

“Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer’s Photo Diary” starts off with a montage of photos that he took during production with comments by the man.

“Pirates on Main Street: The Dead Man’s Chest Premiere” features footage from the red carpet at the world premiere at Disneyland with tons of screaming fans trying to get Depp or Bloom’s autograph or picture.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 84%

Website: http://disney.go.com/pirates/


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