Absent-mindedly flicking through the channels this evening, my wife happened across Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest. “Was this one any good?” she asked. “I don’t think so,” I replied. “I remember it being better than the third one, though.”
Having watched it for what already feels like several hours, it’s clear that it’s not a very good film. It’s far too dark for what’s supposed to be a piece of family-friendly entertainment, with ugly, mutated enemies likely to scare younger kids and nasty moments like a crow pecking out someone’s eyes and even the nominal hero being tortured, given five lashes by his father as the enemy visibly relishes the moment. It’s also dark in a very literal sense – seemingly set in a world of perpetual midnight, with even the few scenes set during daylight hours feeling half-lit, the weather constantly overcast. It’s bloated, self-important and overly serious, finding precious little time for moments of genuine levity. Most of the jokes fall flat, too. The action’s handsomely mounted and reasonably well-shot, but it’s difficult to really care because it’s not nearly as much fun as the original was.
It got me thinking about the series’ similarity to the Matrix and its sequels: great first film, followed by two increasingly overstuffed and humourless sequels. So which is the worst? I still maintain that The Matrix Reloaded has a number of brilliant moments, but unfortunately they’re swallowed up by the ludicrously self-indulgent whole. But then Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, as unnecessarily convoluted and swollen as they may be, didn’t completely evaporate the goodwill engendered by the original. Perhaps it’s because the stakes were lower: the original Pirates was a terrific summer blockbuster, nothing more. The original Matrix, however, was a groundbreaking, exciting and original piece of sci-fi. That its sequels apparently sought to completely ruin its carefully-constructed mythos is clearly the greater pity.
Anyway, as I write this, there’s a big, silly, three-way sword fight which I recall culminates in a thoroughly daft scrap atop, around and inside a gigantic rolling wheel on a tropical island in the sun. So maybe Dead Man’s Chest isn’t all bad.