Thursday, 30 November 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest

There seems little point in reviewing Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest since the box office takings are so ridiculously large (over a billion!) that there can't be many people on the planet who haven't already seen it. The makers are already talking about making two more movies after the third gets released next year, having previously insisted there would be no more. Money is everything and it seems that cashing-in on the success of what was meant to be a one-off movie, to make a trilogy, has paid off huge dividends even before the third film has hit the theatres.

Let's get the negative stuff out the way first. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 isn't a film - it's a series of set pieces strung together without any real coherence or sensible plot. This is eye candy pure and simple, and eye candy that outstays its welcome at close to 150 minutes. It also lacks the charm of the first film, mainly because the lead actor has been given too much free rein, so that what was amusing, witty, and mesmerising in the first film, has become self-indulgent, tedious and inconsistent this second time around.

On the positive side, the film lives up to its promise, in that it's very pirate-y! The special effects are excellent. Bill Nighy gives an interesting twist on the bad guy, making him likeable and jokey and certainly one of the highlights of the film. And, as is evident from the DVD sales released already, kids love it. If you turn off your brain at the door, grab yourself a tub of popcorn and settle back for two and a half hours, you may even convince yourself you've had a good time. I'm sure that for the kids of today this has the same sort of excitement value as the old Harryhausen adventures like Jason and the Argonauts had for my generation - it's just a shame it doesn't have the sense of story those older films have. So Pirates of the Caribbean 2 isn't a bad film, it's just not a very good one, which given the talent available and the huge budget, is pretty inexcusable and frankly rather depressing.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest screencap

Watching the extra's it soon becomes clear why the film is such a mess. Four months before filming is due to start and the director is complaining to the writers that he still doesn't have even a draft of a script. Props need to be build and so the set-pieces are being thought up first, with some sort of belief that a decent script will be produced in time! Everything is based on money, releasing the film at a certain date, and any ideas of having a script seem to be way down the list of priorities. On the one hand it's all pretty appalling. On the other one has to admire the honesty of the film studio in letting the warts-and-all behind the scenes out into the public domain. If I were reviewing the DVD based solely on the film, I'd say 'Avoid!', but the three hours 'Making of' gives one of the most thorough and entertaining behind the scenes I've seen in a long time, from the harrowing pre-production days right through to the end of post- production. It's excellent stuff.

The picture quality is superb, as one would expect from a 'tentpole' release like this. There's no chapter index, but when you get two disks with over five hours of material at the sort of price this is selling for it seems churlish to complain. And that five hours is excluding the director's commentary, which I have to confess I didn't listen to - I just don't care enough about the film to want to waste another two and a half hours of my life on it! The whole package is topped with some bloopers - about half of which are funny, and half of which are padding, but that's about par for the course.

This has already become the UK's biggest selling DVD. Ever! Yes, you read that right. And it's been out for just a week. So it seems pointless my saying rather indignantly 'Don't buy it - there's far more worthwhile fare around for your money'. And when all's said and done there's enough here to maintain interest, even if, like me, you didn't like the original movie. Certainly the extra's are well worth the DVD cost of admission, although I'd say they're probably better as a rental than a purchase.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest screencap

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