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Dead Man's Chest: Pirates II Success Despite Few Flaws

Considering the film was made under the same umbrella as "Country Bears" and "Haunted Mansion", "Pirates of the Caribbean" has brought Disney more treasure than the original theme park ride. In an effort to bump the box office slump off the plank, Disney has cried not just "sequel", but "trilogy" to Gore Verbinski's successful 2003 film. But with more crazy characters, a bigger budget and a longer running time, is "Pirates" getting in over its head?

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The nuptials of lovers Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are interrupted by the corrupt official Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), who has a warrant for their arrest and a bargain to strike. Now, only a mysterious compass can keep the two of them from the gallows. While both go their separate way to find the compass, its owner, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), is busy contending with the Faustian fallout from his deal with the ghastly Davy Jones (Bill Nighy).

The first "Pirates" marked its shots remarkably well - every line well said, every scene well shot and every fight well cut. But now secure in budget and audience attention span, "Dead Man's Chest" languishes too long in its own mythology. Verbinski seems more comfortable, and perhaps too comfortable, in his macabre horror roots, and soon the film looks less like "Pirates of the Caribbean" and more like a sequel to "The Fog".

The major reason for this lies in Davey Jones and his crew. Jones lacks the endearing charisma and humor of predecessor, Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush). Bill Nighy is completely unrecognizable under an octopod combination of CGI and heavy make-up. Although Nighy manages to act beyond the make-up itself (a Herculean task in itself), his character fails not from the exceptional actor, but from a script which succeeds in making him scary, but fails to make him intriguing.

Speaking of Barbosa, two stragglers from the old crew make it in the film - the squat Ragetti (Mackenzie Crook) and the lanky, glass-eyed Pintel (Lee Arenberg). In addition to supplying much-needed comic relief, the two seem to play the role of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, wandering in and out of the action, and managing to know as most if not more of the plot than the main players do.

As far as main players go, Johnny Depp never misses a beat as Jack Sparrow, from his gunshot entrance to his memorable departure. Its a shame, however, that Sparrow himself often seems lost in the convoluted action that follows, resulting in a lack of screen time which nearly cripples the film.

Keira Knightley's Swann is less the damsel in distress and more a swashbuckler than her Bloom's Turner. Her character entertains a great amount of character development which points to some interesting directions in the trilogy's conclusion.
Its a shame the same can't be about Bloom. Neither underused or overplayed, Bloom is just Bloom.

Ultimately, "Dead Man's Chest" holds up surprisingly good as far as sequel, thanks in part to the performances of the cast and the creativity of the crew. Still, it falls into the same pitfalls of most other sequels, mostly due to the presumptions of a big budget follow-up. However, the film's conclusion more than makes up for any flaws, injecting shadow and spice into the future of the franchise. Diehard fans should be advised to stay through the credits, however, if only to view the complete "Dead Man's Chest" experience.