Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ★★★★½

MY GAWD.

It’s insane that this movie is not featured on every list of the best sequels out there. From minute one, it takes the pre-established lore and characters from the first film and adds depth, satisfying growth, and better stakes all the way. Also, like any good Empire Strikes Back analogy, it veers darker than everything before. There’s just something so entirely lacking in bathos here that embraces the epic and the absurd without letting either one eclipse the other. And the imagery is so strong, so striking, so much fun!

It’s additionally insane that this is, without a doubt, one of the best-looking blockbusters of the 2000s - and certainly better-looking than almost anything out today. How did we get that golden age of CGI just before 2010, with Gollum and Transformers and the 2008 Iron Man - only to have it replaced by the effects in Black Panther just 10 years later?

Anyway, the movie looks and feels like nothing else. The perfect blend of great CGI and practical effects, the rich production design, the memorable action setpieces, the flair of the costumes and creatures; it’s rare to see such a wildly ambitious vision feel so fully-realized onscreen. Not to mention, the script is exactly aware of what it wants to be at every moment. I remember when this came out, there were all kinds of jabs at how silly the ‘big wheel fight’ toward the end was, but watching it now, there’s something so comically all-in about it that just vibes perfectly. And the action blends slapstick brilliantly. It’s like everything great about Indiana Jones mixed with everything great about Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. I love every minute.

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