Director – Gore Verbinski, Screenplay – Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, Producer – Jerry Bruckheimer, Photography – Dariusz Wolski, Music – Hans Zimmer, Music Supervisor – Bob Badami, Visual Effects Supervisor – John Knoll, Visual Effects – Industrial Light and Magic (Animation Supervisor – Hal Hickel), Additional Visual Effects – Asylum, The Orphanage Inc, CIS Hollywood, Method & Pacific Title and Digital, Special Effects Supervisors – Allan Hall & Michael Lantieri, Creature Concepts – Crash McCreery, Makeup Effects Supervisor – Ve Neill, Makeup Effects – Creature Make-Up Concepts & M.A.C., Production Design – Rick Heinrichs. Production Company – Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow), Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann), Bill Nighy (Davy Jones), Jack Davenport (James Norrington), Lee Arenberg (Pintel), Mackenzie Crook (Ragetti), Kevin McNally (Master Gibbs), Stellan Skarsgård, (Bootstrap Bill Turner), Tom Hollander (Lord Cutler Beckett), Jonathan Pryce (Governor Weatherby Swann), Naomie Harris (Tia Dalma), Alex Norton (Captain Bellamy)
Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are about to marry when they are interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Company who has an arrest warrant for both of them. Beckett is prepared to offer a royal pardon if Will will retrieve Jack Sparrow’s magical compass. Jack meanwhile regains the captaincy of the Black Pearl but then receives a visitation from Will’s late father Bootstrap Bill who warns that Davy Jones has come to claim the debt that Jack owes him. Jack immediately flees for the nearest land. Will finds Jack among the native Pelligostas where he is worshipped as their god. They make an escape just as Jack is about to be sacrificed. They then track down The Flying Dutchman captained by Davy Jones and his crew of undead. Jack tricks Will into going aboard the Flying Dutchman in search of the drawing of a key, only to then trade him to Davy Jones to pay off his debt. A race ensues between the various parties to find the hiding place of the chest that contains Davy Jones’s removed heart – the only means of killing him. At the same time, Davy Jones unleashes the monstrous Kraken to kill Jack.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) was a huge audience-pleasing hit when it came out. The peculiar combination of action producer Jerry Bruckheimer, quirkily independent star Johnny Depp and a film based on a Disney theme park ride managed to come together despite its apparent incongruity to add up to a runaway success. Pirates of the Caribbean even ended up with Johnny Depp being nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was the first of two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels that were made more or less back-to-back and was followed a year later by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007). Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio and all of the original cast are back. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest opened to massive success and enjoyed the highest weekend opening gross in history at the time.
Dead Man’s Chest offers up the same mix that Pirates of the Caribbean did – lots of swashbuckling, Johnny Depp’s comically fey performance and a deft mixture of comedy and adventure. With a budget of $225 million (nearly $100 million more than Pirates of the Caribbean), Dead Man’s Chest is certainly far more lavish in terms of spectacle and production finish than Pirates of the Caribbean was. Gore Verbinski, along with Industrial Light and Magic and production designer Rick Heinrichs, pull off some dazzling spectacle – the camera panning around harbours full of sailing ships, scenes with the pirates imprisoned in a cage of bones attached to the end of a rope trying to scale up a vast cliff face, beached full-size sailing ships, massively scaled effects sequences with the Kraken tearing ships apart. The makeup effects people turn out an extraordinary range of piscine creations among Davy Jones’s crew, while Davy Jones comes with a digitally created octopus-like face of amazing texture and depth.
There is also the sense that what we have in Dead Man’s Chest is Pirates of the Caribbean spread out onto a larger stage. Like Pirates of the Caribbean, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio’s script for Dead Man’s Chest sets a wide stage but ends up being sprawling. There are a number of simultaneous running plots going on and at 150 minutes it often becomes difficult to keep track of why everyone is each chasing the chest for their own purposes and whose allegiance is to who or who is betraying who at any one particular moment. There are several subplots that could have been dropped altogether – like the 15 or more minutes we get of the crew on another ship being fooled into thinking a stowaway Keira Knightley’s dress is a ghost; while the scenes with Johnny Depp being turned into a native sacrifice verge on bad racial humour.
Moreover, what one realizes upon reaching the end of the 150 minutes is that Dead Man’s Chest has not been designed as a self-contained film and that it concludes on a cliffhanger as set up for the equally sprawling At World’s End. A measure of the contrast might be to imagine Dead Man’s Chest being stripped of its scale and lavish over-production and brought back down to the size of Pirates of the Caribbean – or even for that matter were Dead Man’s Chest the first film in the series, and whether it would have been able to stand on its own and be as successful as the original was. It is hard to say; mindedly, I thought Pirates of the Caribbean was overrated too.
For all that, Dead Man’s Chest has a good-natured and eccentric charm. Where Dead Man’s Chest works best is when Gore Verbinski is allowed to let the humour flourish – the sequence with Johnny Depp escaping from the natives’ sacrificial fire and running about with a pole tied to his back looking like a gigantic fruit kebab; or the madcap sequence with various parties sword duelling around the top of a giant out-of-control rolling mill wheel. All the cast are up to scratch – Johnny Depp gives another gauche comic performance; Orlando Bloom plays handsome and intent; Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook have their roles embellished to become in effect the live-action equivalent of Disney talking animal sidekicks. It is only Keira Knightley, the lovely and spirited find that Pirates of the Caribbean brought to A-list status, who is relatively subdued and quiet.
After several years silence, there were two further sequels with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales/Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017). Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was parodied in Epic Movie (2007).
(Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Bill Nighy), Best Special Effects and Best Production Design at this site’s Best of 2006 Awards).