As the sequel to one of the most popular films of the new millennium, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” has a lot to prove.  And
while it may not be the ultimate swashbuckling film we all hoped it to be, it still succeeds in providing a lot of fun and setting our
anticipation for the third chapter, which hits theaters next May.

It’s hard to talk about the “Pirates” films without starting with Johnny Depp.  He is absolutely hilarious as Captain Jack Sparrow and, as in
the original, is the highlight of this film.  The story really revolves around Sparrow this time around as he tries to escape a debt owed to the
villainous Davy Jones.

But surprisingly, the script doesn’t shortchange the other characters.  All of the main cast and most of the supporting cast have motivations
and arcs that we see developing and influencing what is to come.  Unlike many sequels where the heroes and villains assume the same
roles under different circumstances, “Dead Man’s Chest” evolves its characters.  

If anything there may be too many characters to follow over the course of its considerable running time of nearly 140 minutes. Some of the
scenes in the first half of the movie are a bit hit or miss and should probably have been trimmed.

But in the end, the motivations and decisions our heroes make create interesting confrontations that I found surprising and fairly
ambitious.  Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann does something late in the film that caught me totally off guard.

Even though Depp receives all of the accolades, the entire cast is excellent.  Notable newcomers this time around are Stellan Skarsgard,
Naomie Harris, and Bill Nighy.

Nighy plays the ruthless Davy Jones who is brought to life via phenomenal computer animation by Industrial Light and Magic.  Just as the
first movie was, the visual effects are outstanding.  Of course it helps that the production design and cinematography are also excellent.  

“Dead Man’s Chest” is a visually stunning film and director Gore Verbinski shows a lot of versatility behind the camera.  I really admire his
comedy direction and just as the first film, the action scenes are very cool.  One of these involving a water wheel is particularly fun.

The largest problem with the film is that it goes for a darker and more violent tone, yet also tries to maintain a heavy comic touch.  The
transitions can be jarring at times, but both work well enough on their own, the comedy working more consistently well.

Unfortunately, Hans Zimmer’s score trades in the cheesy fun of the original for a rather bland dramatic edge.  It only works well when using
the original’s themes.  The music representing the giant squid monster (the kraken) is especially irritating and overdone.

It’s also a bit frustrating that the many subplots are left hanging at the end, but considering that it is the middle of a trilogy; it’s unfair to hold
that against it too harshly.

Overall “Dead Man’s Chest” is a worthy sequel.  It is funny and exciting and has a few well placed surprises up its sleeve.  It manages to do
all that while not rehashing the original, but continuing a story.

* * *
(out of four)
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN:
DEAD MAN'S CHEST
Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Written by: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio

Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley,
Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce

Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolski

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Released: July 7, 2006; 151 Minutes