Screenwriter: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport
Running time: 150 mins
Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp), Will Turner (Bloom) and feisty lady Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) again form a shaky and unlikely alliance in the sequel to the 2003 hit. Sparrow is having a black spot of bother as he is called up to pay his debt to the infamous Davy Jones. Meanwhile, Will and Elizabeth's wedding is interrupted by their being arrested, leading them on independent journeys in pursuit of Sparrow.
Dead Man's Chest is an extremely busy, fast-moving film, and to get through everything it wants to in 150 minutes, this is hardly a surprise. Packed into the running time is everything you could want from a pirate movie, and unfortunately more. We have a village of cannibalistic tribesmen, the tentacle-faced Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman, a drawn-out sword-fight on a giant rolling wheel, a kraken, a reunion between Turner and his father. And so on.
It's been widely publicised that this movie was filmed back to back with the third and supposedly final chapter in Verbinski's tale - though even if you didn't know this it wouldn't be too hard to guess just by watching it. It just doesn't feel like a complete story but rather a frantic but bulky part of a larger whole, which means that after two and a half hours the audience isn't provided with what could truly be called an ending or even a particularly interesting cliffhanger.
The main trio of the original's favourites return, though unfortunately we never really get too interested in any one of them, simply because there are so many characters clamouring to be watched. Depp's camp captain is played well, though is too often used as a joke in himself rather than a mouthpiece for them. Bloom's Will is given an interesting subplot in meeting his father Bootstrap Bill (Skarsgard), whilst the admittedly entertaining Keira Knightley is largely redundant plot-wise and just seems to be included for the sake of it.
The plethora of characters, however, are never really the focus of Dead Man's Chest - they all play second fiddle to the special effects, which seem to hold more influence over the plot. Easily the strongest point of the film, the visuals are spectacular. The Flying Dutchman and its crew, humans with fishy mutations, are well-conceived as is the pesky kraken out for Sparrow's blood.
If all we expected was good, often very good, effects and locations, then Dead Man's Chest would surely more than satisfy. It's watchable (if requiring some patience), it's by no means a bad film and will do doubt be lapped up by many. However, after the fresh originality and tighter story which made the first Pirates so popular, audiences will simply be expecting more than this film delivers. Hopefully next summer's instalment will reveal this to be simply a difficult middle act.