Jared Jacoby’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Do you fear... death? Do you fear that dark abyss? All your deeds laid bare, all your sins punished?”
It is a bit weird that I have watched the first Pirates film three times yet this is my first time watching the second film. I have seen one of the action scenes, but that is it. I recently got into a Pirates of the Caribbean mood and I decided that I was going to celebrate the 4th of July by watching the original trilogy with my mom. Well, we kind of ran out of time for the last film, but I will definitely be watching it tomorrow. As for this film, how well does it compare to its fantastic predecessor?
Well, it actually compares quite well. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is an fantastic sequel that offers more than just the same. It has a story that is quite different from the original.
Jack Sparrow discovers that his debt to Davy Jones is due and he must join him or go to Davy Jones’ Locker. Meanwhile, Will and Elizabeth are supposed to have their wedding, but it is interrupted as they are arrested for letting Jack escape. Will is then told to find the compass that is supposed to lead them to the Dead Man’s Chest.
From the beginning, the tone starts to shift. There is still plenty of humor, but the story is a bit darker and the tonal changes are pretty well-balanced. What makes the story so good in this film is how it expands on the characters and their personalities.
Will Turner is a much more interesting protagonist in this film. He is given more tough choices and he gets to see his father. His character is given a lot more development and his chemistry with Jack and Elizabeth are still on point. Jack Sparrow is even more zany and enjoyable in this film. Seriously, this character is awesome. You never quite know what he will do next. Elizabeth gets a bit less screen time this time around, but she is still great and she has one of the funniest moments in the film. I died with laughter at that scene. As for the performances, Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp and Keira Knightly are all fantastic. Their performances have improved from the last film. They have so much fun and they are bursting with energy.
However, one of the biggest improvements with Dead Man’s Chest is with the villains. They are terrific. Davy Jones is such a cool and menacing villain. His design is creepy beyond belief. His crew is badass and he has a great ability that makes him so much more terrifying. Bill Nighy’s performance as this character is top-notch. Even the supporting characters are great with them getting their time to shine and contribute to the plot.
There are a couple of times where I got a little confused, but I figured out what was going on quickly. I have seen people complain about the plot being convoluted and it really is not that bad. The world in this film is a lot more interesting with it being expanded upon. There is much more interesting mythology here and many more creatures and dangers to face. The script does a great job with the story and it balances the character moments, humor, action, drama and romance perfectly.
The humor in this film is just as gut-busting as the first. There are so many gags that made me burst out laughing, especially with a particular scene with Elizabeth. It helps that the dialogue is terrific once again. It gives the actors so much banter to work from and it all works so well. The more I think about it, the more I actually prefer the story to this from Curse of Black Pearl. Yes, the predecessor is more tight than this, but the story in this film is way more interesting and unpredictable.
As for the visuals, oh my god they are freaking spectacular! This movie has some of the best and most convincing special effects I have ever seen in a film. Davy Jones and his crew all have such imaginative designs. They look so fierce and terrifying. Not only that, but the CGI for them looks so good, that they could be passed off as real. It is insane with how good it looks. The sets look stunning. They have such beautiful locations and ships. It feels so much like a pirate world with every moment. Not only does it capture the look of a world of pirates, but also the tone of a world of pirates. The costumes are great once again, but it does not surprise me at all.
The action in this film is even better than the action in the first film. The pacing and structure for these sequences are very diverse and there is so much happening in each set piece. The action shifts so often with how it is played out that it never gets old. The best action scene in the film is the entire fight between Jack, Will and Norrington. This freaking set piece brought so much joy to me in every second. It is so fun and beautifully shot. It also had me guessing how it was going to end every step of the way. That three-way sword fight is one of the best set pieces I have ever seen in a film.
The cinematography and lighting is great once again. It is very hard to have nighttime scenes in a blockbuster look really good sometimes, and they look great here. There was never a time where I felt it was too dark to see what was happening. The musical score by Hans Zimmer is amazing once again. It fits the tone of the film so well and I never get tired of hearing the Pirates theme.
To be honest, the more I think about, the more that I believe that I prefer Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest over The Curse of the Black Pearl. It improves on nearly everything the first film did. The action is better, the performances are better, the villains are more interesting, the visuals are even more stunning and the story is more engaging. It is a damn great sequel to an amazing blockbuster film. I honestly do not know why it did not get better reviews when it first came out. Either way, I am glad that it is getting more praise than it initially got. This is an underrated gem of a film. I cannot wait to watch At World’s End.