Dead Man's Chest 

Sparrow and crew back in Pirates part two

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a stylish, swashbuckling popcorn pic that's wonderfully entertaining once it rids itself of its sea legs and finds its course, which takes about a half-hour.

The film, which is a continuation of the 2003 hit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, follows Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he tries to save his soul from the squid-like Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who rules over the ocean with the help of a giant octopus called the Kraken and a ghostly crew that have been underwater so long they look like sea life. The only way he can save himself is to possess Jones' still-beating heart, which is located in the "Dead Man's Chest" that is, of course, nowhere to be found.

Also hoping to get their hands on the chest are Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who can't get married until they help Jack for reasons too complex to explain, and Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), who seeks redemption after getting coldly spurned by Elizabeth. Other characters of note include Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), who is blackmailing Will and Elizabeth, and Will's father, "Bootstrap" Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgard), who is already an indentured servant on Jones' ship.

Much like The Matrix Reloaded—the second installment of the Matrix trilogy—Dead Man's Chest is the middle piece of a story that wasn't designed to have second and third parts. The film is bigger and more sensationalistic than the first in terms of production value, but its narrative becomes slightly undone by the fact that it doesn't have a concise beginning and ending, leaving viewers unfamiliar with the first film in the series completely lost.

But Disney is banking that most people who see part deux will have seen the first and will appreciate the great visual effects work on the Kraken, Hans Zimmer's gleefully energetic score and director Gore Verbinski's elaborate stunts and fight sequences, all of which are an improvement on what came before.

One could argue that the hardest job of having to build on earlier success lies with Depp, who received an Oscar nomination for his work in the first Pirates. Delightfully, he more than rises to the challenge; note the same floating, Keith Richards-inspired presence, but with a quicker wit and even more backhanded treachery, thanks to Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio's script. Yes, the ingenious novelty of the performance is gone, but he still brings enough gusto—and that unparalleled Depp charisma—to the screen once again to make Captain Jack a great character to watch and enjoy.

And really, that's what movies like Pirates are all about: being enchanted by the carefree, fantasy wonder that the movie presents. And I'm sure we can look forward to a lot more of the same when the third movie is released next summer.

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