Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The bearer of bad tidings... "Pirates 2" sucks

July 7, 2006

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is the worst kind of sequel -- the kind that exists only to give you more-more-more of what you liked the first time around, without ever justifying its own existence." -- Rene Rodriguez, MIAMI HERALD

I couldn't have said it better myself... though I'll try. I hate to be the bringer of negative news, let alone news of what is by far the most anticipated movie of the summer/year, but there's no getting around it: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is NOT a good movie. Not even close. This is just a jumble of my thoughts immediately after seeing the movie, so I don't know how coherent it is.

"Pirates 2" is a bloated (over two and a half hours!!), for-money's-sake sequel that drains out virtually everything that made the original a surprise hit-- its genuine sense of fun and spirited charm, with adventure/action scenes that felt organic in terms of the plot. "Dead Man's Chest" isn't a total drag-- it has its moments--- but for the most part, it just feels labored, while desperately trying to outdo the original in every respect, assuming excessive amounts is what people want.First and foremost, the length.

The movie doesn't even really get started until about an hour in, and even when the movie/story gets going, so much of it is filled up with useless exposition that the majority of the audience doesn't really care about anyway. The first hour contains an inexplicable "fun" cannibal storyline that takes up at least 30 minutes of screentime and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the rest of the movie-- why it's even in here, I have no idea. Many reviews have discussed that the movie's final 45 minutes or so are non-stop action sequences, one after the other-- true, but at this point, I was so slumped down in my seat, I could barely muster up any enthusiasm for the movie's one (!!!) sequence of swashbuckling.

The chief problem with "POTC:DMC" is the nonstop excess. Everything (and I mean everything) is piled on to such a ridiculous extreme that we have no idea what to do with ourselves. Usually, continual movement/action/plot-turns are a good thing-- here they're just exhausting and not in a good way. On top of that, there's a plethora of subplots to trudge through to get to any fun stuff. There's WAY too much going on here and very little of it is interesting; and for a movie with so much going on, not much happens over the course of the film.

Even the one thing that made the original film stand out-- Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)--- is disappointing here. Depp is still having fun, and plays Sparrow in the same way as the first, but it's no longer new or fresh. It simply seems like he's rehashing what he's done before, and as a result, Jack is less interesting and less amusing (I could sense my audience's interest in his zany antics dwindling). Needless to say, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are as dull as ever.

There's sadly not much good to report but here goes-- Most importantly, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Created completely with CGI, the character of Jones is such an amazing technical achievement, but aside from the fascination with his appearance, Nighy's performance is pretty wonderful as well. He doesn't have nearly as much screentime as you'd imagine, but whenever Jones is onscreen, the movie perks up and grabs your attention.

Director Gore Verbinski does keep things moving at a fast enough clip that you're never terribly bored with the movie (you just wish it would hurry along to where its going). The "Kraken" sequences are well done, and pretty nifty to look at, but you never feel any sort of genuine terror like you should.

And the much talked-about cliffhanger ending-- it's no "Empire Strikes Back" or anything spectacular, but I thought it was fun. And, in what must now be a tradition, the movie ends with the same rousing music the first film did, inspiring people leaving the theater convinced they must have had a good time (my audience was noticably impatient during some of the films middle stretches, but still managed to applaud half-heartedly at the end).

I don't want to sound like I hated "Dead Man's Chest" because I really didn't. I sat through it fine and it was never painful-- I just was never "with it" at any point (if pressed, I'd say * * out of 4). I wanted to like it-- I'm a big fan of the original (which I own on DVD), but so much of it didn't work for me at all, I really can't recommend it.

Not that my recommendation would count for shit anyway. Everyone (literally EVERYONE) I know wants to see this movie, and most prognosticators are predicting it will break the all-time opening weekend record of "Spider-Man" (that's $114 million in 3 days for those of you playing at home), and I think it has a good chance of doing it.

I'm holding out hope that the third chapter of the POTC series, "At World's End," ends the trilogy on a fine note, but honestly, after this, I don't have much desire to even see it.


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