Scarlett O’Hairdye relives her glory days as a pirate in her first re-view for 10YA with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Yes, she provided a photo called “Portrait of the Author as a Young Pirate.”
You should understand that I used to really, really like pirates. I have photos. It was a whole thing for a while.You should also understand that because I liked pirates, I dressed up as a pirate for the midnight showing of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, knowing literally nothing about the film except that it was based on a theme park ride that I vaguely remembered and also that it involved pirates. Reader, I was not disappointed.
Neither was Disney.
Disney was so not disappointed that they immediately started throwing money at sequels. Perhaps… Too immediately.
Also, I just realized that I thought I had signed up to review At World’s End, the third film in the trilogy, and I actually am reviewing the second film, Dead Man’s Chest. That’s… Kinda great, actually, because I feel like I remember the least about the second movie and I’ve spent all my time in the last month thinking about things I wanted to say about the third movie and now, Reader, you’re getting something completely new and fresh!
Anyway. What I remember is an entertaining movie with some dumb parts and a generally acceptable plot. There’s a bit with some racist cannibals on an island, and a kraken, and Jack Sparrow being extremely Jack Sparrow-y, and some cool bits with Elizabeth Swann, and then some stuff with Will Turner but he’s mostly just very handsome and occasionally angsty in this film so meh. You’re pretty, Will, but you have more going for you in the first and the third films.
I also want to be clear before I get into this that I feel like getting just one entertaining, genuinely fun movie out of a theme park ride is a goddamn miracle. I mean, holy shit, Reader, it was a theme park ride. And a cheesy one at that! Yes, the writing in this trilogy declines in quality greatly as it goes on, but even the most nonsensical Pirates film is still way more entertaining than 90% of movies starring yet another bland angsty white guy. I will forgive a lot if a movie has swashbuckling. Just ask me about Cutthroat Island sometime.
I took notes as I went, some of which I will be quoting verbatim as I now write this review/recap.
Guess who forgot this started with a ruined wedding? THIS GAL. Guess who also forgot about Lord Beckett, leader of the East India Trading Company? THIS GAL. I seriously remember nothing about this film, as it turns out, except I remember everything about this film as it goes. Also, I hate Lord Beckett and as soon as his pompous asswine face showed up all that old hatred came rolling back. Anyway everyone is under arrest for helping Captain! Jack Sparrow escape at the end of the first movie, and Beckett is here to extort Will into finding Jack to bring back Jack’s compass, yadda yadda yadda.
Now we’re at some kind of horrible pirate prison city on the sea. I bet this will never come back or be mentioned again. Nope, because it’s just a setpiece to introduce the original ensemble dark horse, Captain! Jack Sparrow! He’s using a skeletal leg as an oar in a very seaworthy coffin, because of course he is. His introduction comes with a very dramatic swelling of the theme music, which is something I still unashamedly love. It just gets me pumped to be on the open seas, Reader. You can’t blame me for that.
Jack gets back to the ship and has a conversation with Old Exposition, the pirate from the first movie whose name I can’t remember but whose entire personality is based around being a crotchety old storyteller. This is such a great character to add to a story because it becomes an incredibly easy way to add exposition and backstory without it being clunky. Such a great story device. Anyway, Jack has a picture of a key and he needs to go get said key but his compass isn’t working. Then the rum is gone, a joke I could have done without ever hearing again. Jack goes to get more rum and runs into Bootstrap Bill Turner, Will’s dad, who has a serious case of the barnacles. To sum up, Bill serves on the eternal ship of the damned under Davy Jones, who is coming for Jack’s soul after the agreed-upon thirteen years of Jack captaining the Black Pearl. Also, Bill eats a hermit crab, shell and all, just to add to the creep factor of this scene. The makeup job on Bill Turner is honestly really good and I was paying more attention to that than to the plot. Anyway, don’t sell your soul to the devil, kids, you’ll get the Black Spot on your hand, lose your hat to the sea, and get chased by a Kraken.
Back to Elizabeth and Will. Will is going after Jack, Elizabeth is REAL GODDAMN HORNY and also REAL GODDAMN PISSED about the whole interrupted wedding. They have some hardcore flirting in front of her dad, who is really awkward about the whole thing, and then Will heads out into a montage!
(Oh, man, why does it have to be the black guy who was excited about eating long pork? Did no one see a problem with that? Honestly, these are extremely diverse movies in terms of all the background casting but unfortunately many of the non-white characters are reaaaaaally shitty stereotypes or just straight-up bad people. I mean you can argue that a lot of the white characters are terrible people, too, but there aren’t really any unambiguously heroic characters of color and that’s an issue.)
Speaking of shitty stereotypes, the racist cannibals are here! It’s not an issue at all for a white guy to be crowned king of a bunch of indigenous people while he speaks total gibberish. Not. At. All. Jack makes a joke about Will not being fit for eating since he’s a eunuch, blah blah, I hate this whole plot section.
Let’s go back to Elizabeth! Her dad springs her from jail and is trying to send her back to England where she’ll be safe, but then she springs herself from the coach, finds a gun, and threatens Lord Beckett into signing the letters of mark that will give Jack (or whoever has them) a full pardon for all crimes of piracy. Elizabeth is salty about not getting laid. I don’t blame her.
Oh, These Two Guys are back! Eyeball and Baldy are really two of the best These Two Guys of all time. Their comedy timing is great. I’m with Eyeball, I think you get points for trying to read even if you can’t actually read. Also, they brought a dog with them. I like the dog. They land on Cannibal Island with the intent of salvaging the Black Pearl. Meanwhile, Will and Old Exposition are stuck in hanging cages made of skeletons. Old Exposition shares that the Cannibals are going to roast Jack alive and eat him, which honestly he kinda deserves, so Will hatches an escape plan.
Also, almost all of the non-white pirates from the Black Pearl’s crew die by being duplicitous and double-crossing. Great. Not problematic at all.Jack also escapes. He’s tied to a pole. There’s a bit with fruit. Whatever.
This review is turning out to be really long so I’m going to speed over some bits. They get off the island (leaving behind the dog, you monsters), there’s some talking (did they actually write Jack’s lines as basically gibberish or is that all Johnny?), and then they decide to go see Her. Elizabeth has stowed away on a ship that has a captain that doesn’t kinkshame his crew for maybe wanting to wear a lady’s dress. When I was younger I thought it was ridiculous for Elizabeth to be mistaken for a boy so easily, but since then I’ve seen Bend Like Beckham and I no longer find it so weird.
TIA DALMA. She’s such an enchanting weirdo lady. I do love me a good witch. Her character kinda goes off the rails in the third one but this scene is solid. I feel like she’s just pulling a psychology game on Jack with the jar of dirt. I bet it does nothing and she just thinks it would be funny for him to carry it around all the time. I would totally do that. Jack totally deserves it. Anyway, we learn that Davy Jones cut his heart out of his chest for the love of a woman who is also the sea, and now it lives in a chest and the key Jack wants will open the chest. Also, Tia is flirting hardcore with Will. No plot relevance, I just thought I’d mention it.
SHIT YEAH DEMON SHIP OF THE DAMNED. It’s time for the undead fish people to shine. The CG on Davy Jones is really still amazing. The rest of the fish people, maybe not so much. Is Davy actually a mask? With good animatronic work? It looks so much better than Hammerhead guy. Anyway there’s some like, plot shit happening here but I’m distracted by Davy’s tentacle face. Will ends up joining the crew of the Flying Dutchman temporarily, while Davy agrees to give up his claim on Jack’s soul in exchange for one hundred other souls.
Oh, Elizabeth. Constantly surrounded by idiot men. The universal experience of women in adventure movies. She uses her dress as a puppet to get the idiots to put in at Tortuga so she can get shit done. Handily, Jack is at Tortuga at the same time recruiting idiots and madmen to be part of his crew. Norrington comes back! He’s drunk, filthy, and ornery as hell. Norrington’s introduction in this film makes him so much more interesting than he ever was in the first film. Also it leads to a bar brawl, always fun.Back on the Flying Dutchman, Davy Jones takes solace in the one love he has left: Playing dramatic music on a giant pipe organ. AW SHIT THIS PIPE ORGAN. This is one of those dumb details I really love. He plays it with his tentacles. That shit is rad.
Will and his dad Bill have an awkward reunion on deck that involve dropping a cannon and then a whip. Oh, man, making a dude whip his own son is just weird. I’m sure there were fanfics about this and I am glad I never looked them up. Stop zooming in on Will’s wet chest. Anyway, there’s some more plot stuff about the key here and Davy Jones’ heart and whatnot. I’m not here for the plot, I’m here for people being sassy at each other. Especially Elizabeth.
I really approve of the second two Pirates movies making the East India Trading Company into the biggest goddamn assholes. The actual company was also super horrible and evil so it’s great that people are still hating it today. Seriously. The worst. Colonialism was really terrible for everywhere but Europe.
Will’s shirt is still holding together remarkably well for having been ripped open for the whipping earlier. Also, he should be in agony having that vest rubbing against those open wounds that we will not mention ever again. There’s a bit with a dice game against Davy Jones, and then Davy takes a nap and Will carefully steals the key. NOW HE HAS A COAT. Will, where did you get that coat? Anyway, Will has the key so now he’s out. There’s some dramatic stuff with his Dad now, which would be heartwarming if I wasn’t in this for the swashing and the buckling.
Oh, right, the love triangle. Definitely my least favorite part of this film. I also get super grossed out thinking of anyone actually kissing Captain! Jack Sparrow because dude is filthy.
Man, the visuals when the Kraken destroys the non-kinkshaming-captain’s ship are really goddamn great. It’s pure monster gold. Will survives somehow and floats away on some wreckage. The Kraken does not appear to have great accuracy in these matters—it can track down Jack’s hat to a ship, but it can’t track Will when he’s floating in open water.
Actual quote from my notes: How much longer is this movie? I remember how it ends but not when. I think there’s a three-way swordfight coming up.
THE FISH MEN COMETH.The three-way swordfight ends up in an old church? And then on top of it. And then on top of a waterwheel. These stunt sequences are actually really good and also really dumb. Now there’s a fight on a rolling waterwheel. It’s amazing. Now they’re fighting inside of it. Now they’re too dizzy to stand up properly. While all this is happening, These Two Guys and Elizabeth are sprinting around with the chest and two swords, fighting fish men in great tooth-clenched teamwork fashion. I do love a comedy action sequence. Jack gets the heart out of the chest and hides it in his jar of dirt, then Norrington steals the heart out of the jar and pretends to make a heroic sacrifice to allow the others to row away.
Oh no, the jar of dirt scene. This was memed so hard I’ve never wanted to see it again. There’s a big sea battle between the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl. Jack finds out he does not, in fact, have Davy’s heart. There is some panic. Then the Kraken is released and we get a rad-ass fight scene against the Kraken! It’s dramatic! There’s explosions! Jack leaves and then feels bad about it and comes back!
Aside—where did all these pirates come from? The Pearl has like ten crew last I checked, now there’s like thirty. Well, they’re all dead now except for our original five Speaking Role Pirates, so it doesn’t matter. All five people left abandon the ship because there’s no way to keep fighting the Kraken at this point. Elizabeth figures out that the Kraken is actually after Jack, so she kisses him to distract him and then chains his ass to the ship like a stone cold bitch. Jack looks so proud of her when he calls her a pirate. The longboat rows away while Will looks betrayed but obviously doesn’t bring it up at all that he saw her kiss Jack.
And then Jack gets Sarlaaced and the Black Pearl gets dragged to the depths of the ocean in another really beautiful sequence that looks like something out of an old illustration. Norrington gives the heart of Davy Jones to Beckett, the tit, and the remaining crew go see Tia Dalma again and Will carves up her table like an asshole. OH THE MOVIE JUST PASSED THE BECHDEL TEST. Tia Dalma said one whole line to Elizabeth not about a man. Bless.YES WILL SHE KISSED JACK TO SAVE ALL Y’ALL’S ASSES, STOP LOOKING WHINEY. Oh man I remember the first time I watched this movie it was such a surprise to have Barbossa come back at the end. I was PSYCHED.
Turns out I remembered very little of what happened in this movie until I was watching it again. I think the main difference between when I saw this film ten years ago and seeing it now is that I now find Jack extremely annoying and completely insufferable. Also, I notice the racism a lot more. (Also I totally forgot that this movie actually had a lot more Will than I remembered and a lot less Elizabeth. I like the version I thought I remembered more.) The first movie is memorable for being a very solid film, and the third is memorable for being kind of a mess, but this one just slid into unremarkable territory. It’s not super good, but it’s also not super bad. The stunt sequences are really so goddamn enjoyable they make up for the story occasionally being lackluster. Is this a good movie? Eh, not really. Is this an entertaining movie? You bet your ass it is, Reader. Buckles got swashed and I left satisfied.Running gags in this film that I like:
– “Jack Sparrow—” “CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow.”
– Jack trying on everyone else’s hats after he loses his hat.
– “SEA TURTLES.”
Running gags in this film that I hate:
– The joke about the rum.
– The jar of dirt scene, which is not a running gag so much as it is a single scene that got turned into a meme that became a running gag and I hate it.
7 buckles swashed out of 10, would watch again.