Wesley Stenzel’s review published on Letterboxd:
Arguments can be made for this one being the best in the series — it trades the tight traditional structure of the first for loose meandering insanity, with higher highs than any other installment of the franchise. Gore Verbinski pushes the limits of what modern blockbuster setpieces can look like, and Johnny Depp doubles down on the broad silent-film-star energy of his original performance. Their combined efforts yield a final product with action sequences that are so hilariously-conceived and flawlessly-executed that the movie, at its best, feels like a 200 million dollar Buster Keaton comedy (albeit without his sense of genuine danger).
The highs have never been higher, but there are also far more noticeable flaws here than in the first film. The plot concerns itself way too much logistics and lore — it feels like half of the scenes are just supporting characters explaining new aspects of the mythology that won’t even be that important until the third movie. The intricacies of characters’ varying allegiances, motivations, and geographic whereabouts have so many moving parts that they’re difficult to keep track of when they’re only explained through dialogue — which is particularly strange when you consider that all of these elements are crystal-clear during the action sequences. I think Verbinski is far more effective at communicating ideas through visuals and motion than he is at communicating the same ideas through conversations, which makes the largely-actionless middle hour of this a bit of a drag. And you have to look past the grotesque reductiveness of the cannibals to appreciate the best setpiece in the movie.
But man, those setpieces are pretty much unparalleled in 2000s blockbuster filmmaking. This movie is a gorgeous, endlessly entertaining mess, stuffed to the brim with loads of nonsense and a lot to love.