The rogers are jolly, the ending is not
For a while, at least, it was fun to pretend there really was a world out there of enchanted islands, ratty pirates and an exceedingly smart crocodile out for the blood of Captain Hook. The same mindset applies to the wildly fantastic new “Pirates of the Carribbean” film ―just replace the corny child dialogue with corny adult dialogue, Captain Hook with an octopus-headed Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and the crocodile with an impossibly enormous squid.
In this, the sequel to the startling 2003 swashbuckling blockbuster, the pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is once again on a quest to cheat certain death, this time in the form of the devil of the sea himself, and once again Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) are suckered in for the ride. Mercantilism has come to Port Royal, in the form of Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Company, who comes with a death sentence for treason for Elizabeth and Will. A few old villains also show up later.
The object everyone’s jonesing for, each for their own constantly changing ends, is the chest in which Davy Jones keeps his still-beating heart ― the nigh-immortal pirate’s sole weakness.
This is the goal, but watching everyone falling over each other to get it is the fun. This is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, which means no sword stays in its sheath, no bar fails to erupt in an all-out melee, and no waterwheel misses its chance for three-way spinning swashbuckling. The imaginative, quirky action sequences match Depp’s well-practiced whimsy, which once again lends the film a surprisingly appealing weirdness. The film’s most amusing set piece involves Depp tied to a bamboo pole and running from a gang of angry islanders. There are a few fun little visual references to the Disneyland ride, and the nameless comic relief pirates from the first film are back and at points provide some much-needed updates on exactly who is chasing who. Tia (Naomie Harris), the old sage living in a bog, is another standout minor character.
But there’s a dark side to this outing on the Black Pearl, and the ending is not a happy one. Many have likened the cliffhanger ending to “The Empire Strikes Back,” and they’re pretty much right, although this Han Solo wears eyeliner.
Once again, the villainous half of the film depends on computer-generated baddies ― this time an army of indentured sailors cursed to 100 years of service to Davy Jones and a gradual transformation into a variety of different sea creatures. They don’t beat the creepy ghosts of the first film, but the underwater abominations serve their purpose.
Just like its dark, dank inspiration at Disneyland (now refurbished with characters from the films), “Pirates” doesn’t set its sights any higher than a sometimes fun, sometimes funny, sometimes creepy ride ― and it passes with flying Jolly Rogers.
by Ben Applegate