Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
The middle film in the original trilogy, when Disney decided to expand on the success of the first film. Story wise, it mainly serves to set up the third film (they were filmed back-to-back). There’s great action, another great soundtrack (composed by Hans Zimmer), and the characters are nicely developed. But where Curse of the Black Pearl could stand on its own as a fulfilling story, this one needs At World’s End to tie up loose ends. Bill Nighy (he went on to play Minister Rufus Scrimgeour in Deathly Hallows, and he was the art professor in Doctor Who‘s episode on Vincent Van Gogh) joins the cast as Davy Jones, Stellan Skarsgård (he plays Bill in both Mamma Mia movies and is Dr. Erik Selvig in the MCU) is Bootstrap Bill, Tom Hollander (he appeared alongside Keira Knightley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) is Lord Cutler Beckett, and Naomie Harris (Eve Moneypenny in the more recent James Bond films) is Tia Dalma [those two characters barely look like each other…wow].
It opens on a rained-out wedding, Will and Elizabeth’s. Will has been arrested by a new batch of British soldiers for his actions in freeing Jack Sparrow. Lord Cutler Beckett is in command and also has a warrant for Elizabeth’s arrest, as well as James Norrington. Norrington resigned his post and is no longer at Port Royal. With our stars already in trouble, we cut to the Black Pearl, waiting outside some sort of prison. Coffins are being thrown into the ocean; a bird lands on one, then is shot off. A hand emerges, followed by Jack. Once aboard the Pearl again, he delivers his treasure, a drawing of a key. The crew is not initially impressed; it’s been some time since they’d done honest pirating and they want a more shiny reward. But Jack talks them around, though the crew also notices he’s acting stranger; for instance, his compass isn’t working.
Back in Port Royal, Beckett has a proposition for Will; in exchange for Jack’s compass, Beckett will grant the man letters of mark, pardoning him and allowing him to survive as a privateer for England. Cutting back to the Pearl, Jack ventures into the hold for some more rum and discovers an old friend: Bootstrap Bill, covered in barnacles. Bill congratulates Jack on getting the Pearl back; Jack informs him that his son, young William, helped in that matter. Bill is dismayed that Will has turned to a life of piracy, but continues with his message: time’s up for Jack. Davy Jones is calling in his debt. He passes on the Black Spot to Jack. Jack proceeds to wake the rest of the crew and informs them to head towards land.
Will visits his betrothed in prison and explains Beckett’s deal. Governor Swann doesn’t trust Jack to help Will and Elizabeth and wants to pursue other courses of action. There’s a funny bit when the couple speaks to each other, Elizabeth’s father standing only a few feet away and Elizabeth informs her fiancé “if it weren’t for these bars, I’d have you already,” startling her father. He breaks a light similar to Will had broken in his home in the previous film. Governor Swann later sneaks Elizabeth out of prison, intending to put her on a ship bound for England. His only concern is his daughter; he’ll help Will as best he can, but knows that the lad will most certainly hang and all the better for Elizabeth to leave Port Royal. Doesn’t seem like he completely approves of his future son-in-law. Their plan is ruined when Beckett’s man kills the friendly captain. Elizabeth snuck out of the carriage in the commotion and holds a pistol to Beckett. She tries to warn him of the cursed Aztec gold, but “there’s more than one chest of value in these waters,” Beckett informs her. She takes the letters, but Beckett warns her he will still want Jack’s compass.
Will is eventually led to an island where the Pearl sits on the beach. He’s captured and taken before the natives’ chief: Jack. Jack speaks nonsense words with the natives and finally whispers “Save me” to Will, despite Will stating that he needs Jack’s help to save Elizabeth. Once Will is put with the rest of the crew in hanging bone cages, Gibbs informs him that while the natives view Jack as their chief and thus a god, there is a ceremony to free the god from his human form; the fire they’re building is for that purpose. Will takes charge; they must escape Jack plays along, insisting on more wood and when the opportune moment comes, he runs away. He’s caught and gotten ready for the fire. But the crew has been caught climbing the cliff (Mythbusters tested whether that could be done; the cage could not be swung the way its shown in the movie, but a crew can climb up a wall). Jack has another chance to escape. He joins his crew back at the Pearl; Will first insisted they couldn’t leave without Jack, but upon seeing the whole village of natives chasing the man, he quips “time to go.” They get safely away.
To rescue Elizabeth, Jack states they need to go upriver. They visit Tia Dalma, who informs Will “you have a touch of destiny about you.” To Jack, she cackles, “Jack Sparrow does not know what he wants.” When Will asks about the key, which Jack has told him ultimately leads to a way to save Elizabeth, Tia Dalma tells the crew about Davy Jones. He fell in love, but eventually, the love was too painful, so he cut out his own heart and buried it in a chest. The key unlocks that chest. She reveals Jack’s Black Spot, showing that Jones is after Jack. Since Jones cannot step on dry land except once every ten years, land is where they will be safe, so they will carry land with them. She gives Jack a jar of dirt. Then she casts for the location of the Flying Dutchman.
They come upon a shipwreck. Jack sends Will over, the lad’s plan is simple enough, cut down any in his path to the key. Oh, and if Will needs, tell them that Jack Sparrow sent him to settle his debt. Will eventually comes before Davy Jones as he offers the dying sailors from the other ship the chance to forestall judgment day by serving one hundred years on his ship: “do you fear death?” When Jones comes to Will, he asks his purpose. Will says what Jack told him. The captain visits the pirate aboard the Pearl. Their deal was Jack got to be captain for thirteen years; time’s up. Now Jack is to serve aboard the Dutchman for a hundred years. Jack wishes to further postpone that trip and haggles for how many souls is his worth. Answer, one hundred. Jones will keep Will for the time being. After their encounter, Jack orders Gibbs to head for Tortuga.
Elizabeth has apparently snuck aboard another ship, changed into men’s clothing and the crew finds her wedding dress. They first think it’s a sign from a spirit. Elizabeth comes up with the plan to use that notion to her advantage and direct the ship to Tortuga. There, Norrington comes forward under the guise to join Jack’s crew. Really, he wants revenge for the pirate ruining his life; his clothes are filthy, he’s drunk, he lost his ship, his crew, his position, everything. So those two men start a riot in the tavern. Elizabeth joins in and eventually knocks Norrington out when he becomes too annoying. She then tracks down Jack and asks about Will. Jack spins her the tale that in order to save Will, she needs to find the chest, revealing that his compass “points to the thing you want most in this world.” (This is where the line from the new Disney intro “we have our heading!” comes from)
Aboard the Dutchman there is confusion over an order for “Mr. Turner;” both Will and Bill respond and that confusion lets a canon drop on deck. Five lashes are issued to Will. Bill steps in to take the punishment. Davy Jones inquires why he would take the punishment; Bill responds “he’s my son.” Jones finds it poetically cruel and forces Bill to whip is own son’s back. Later, Will retorts he doesn’t need his father’s help, though Bill is urging Will to get off the ship. Will has sworn no oath to Jones and is not bound to the ship. Will tells him about his search for the Dead Man’s Chest, which a veteran crewmember (who is almost completely one with the ship) informs them don’t stab the heart. The Dutchman needs a living heart, or there will be no captain. We’re still left a little confused. But Will comes up with a plan; he challenges Davy Jones to the game Liar’s Dice. He wagers a lifetime of service in exchange for the key, which makes Jones reveal it’s hidden in his tentacle face. Bill jumps into the game and in the end throws it so his son will remain free. That evening, after Jones falls asleep at his organ, Will sneaks in and steals the key. Bill has a boat waiting for him and gives his son a knife. Will takes it with the promise that he will find some way to free his father; he won’t abandon him. [I think that’s a bit of a dig at Bill abandoning Will and his mother years ago]
Back in Port Royal, Beckett meets with Governor Swann. He warns the man that he has ships in pursuit of Jack, Will, and now Elizabeth. There could easily be a battle and the father can only imagine what will happen to his daughter. In exchange for possibly saving Elizabeth, Beckett wants Swann’s authority as governor, his influence in London, and ultimately, his loyalty.
Will manages to hitch a ride on another ship, the same one Elizabeth used to get to Tortuga; he recognizes her wedding dress. But the ship seems to have struck a reef. That’s how the other ship was caught by the Dutchman. Davy Jones has discovered Will’s deception and forces Bill to watch as the Dutchman’s crew calls the Kraken and sends it to the other ship. Will does escape (at one point, sliding down a sail with a knife to slow his descent: Mythbusters also tested this but found that it didn’t work due to the ribbing in the sail; my argument with their test, the ribbing was done in a different direction in the movie, vertical compared to horizontal), briefly catching his breath on a piece of driftwood (a callback to his first appearance in the previous film), before eventually hiding in the front of the Dutchman. Jones orders for them to make for his chest, attempting to beat Sparrow.
In the meantime, Norrington overhears Elizabeth, Jack, and Gibbs discussing the letters of mark. Gibbs comments that if the East India Company controls the heart, they’ll control the seas, which is bad for every pirate. Norrington (I’m not sure why he does this aside from he’s still mad that Elizabeth chose Will over him) insinuates that Elizabeth is attracted to Jack. She’s appalled. Later, Jack notes that they are similar people, he and Elizabeth. She retorts that Jack lacks a sense of honor, decency, a moral center, and personal hygiene. Jack responds that Elizabeth will come over to his side, of piracy, because she’ll want the freedom. Elizabeth counters that Jack will want to be a good man; he’ll want the reward. They get very close to one another, almost seducing the other. They’re interrupted by coming upon the island.
Jack, Elizabeth, and Norrington go ashore to dig up the chest. Will arrives just as the chest is found, Elizabeth happily embraces and kisses her fiancé. He has to thank Jack for his reunion with his father aboard the Dutchman. Elizabeth realizes that everything Jack told her was a lie. Jack can’t let Will stab the heart, freeing Bill, because then who will call off the Kraken? He holds his sword to Will, Will returns the favor, and Norrington pulls out his sword; he can’t let Will stab the heart because he needs to deliver the chest to Beckett to get his life back. So, all three begin dueling each other. Ragetti and Pintel (the pirate comedic duo) steal the chest, Elizabeth goes after them and they’re soon fighting the crew of the Dutchman (with only two swords between the three of them; Will has Elizabeth’s). The trio of men end up at an old church with a water wheel attached, all fighting over the key. The duel takes them aboard the wheel once it’s broken away. It’s a great bit of choreography and I’m sure not easy to film.
In the end, Jack is able to open the chest and takes the heart and stuffs it down his shirt. When he gets back to the rowboat, he puts it in the jar of dirt. Norrington finds the letters, and spots the mess with the dirt. When Will finds the chest, Jack knocks him out to prevent him from opening it. Cornered by the Dutchman‘s crew, Norrington offers to take the chest and distract them so the others can get away. He eventually drops the chest, letting the crew take it.
Aboard the Pearl, Jack taunts Davy Jones: “I’ve got a jar of dirt! And guess what’s inside it!” [there’s another hilarious remix of this] Well, Jones orders his crew to open fire on the Pearl, send it back to the depths. The Pearl turns and flees; against the wind, the Dutchman is faster which is how it traps its victims, but with the wind, the Pearl has the advantage. Will wants to turn and fight and free his father. Jack smirks that it’s better to negotiate. When the ship shudders, his jar of dirt falls and breaks. “Where’s the thump thump?” The heart is gone. Jones lets the Pearl take the lead; he has his crew call up the Kraken. Will has seen this tactic before and takes charge. They’ll load the gunpowder…and rum, into the cargo net. He hands a rifle to Elizabeth, she better not miss [I forgot this part of the movie, which is sad, cause it’s awesome!].
Meanwhile, Jack has taken the only boat and is planning on escaping. But he catches sight of the plight of his ship and crew and checks his compass. Elizabeth spots him and mutters “Coward.” There’s a bit of chaos and confusion when the net is finally lifted and Will manages to catch his foot in the ropes. Elizabeth loses hold of the gun for a moment when a tentacle grabs her; Pintel and Ragetti save her. When she finds it, a boot is on it: Jack. He takes the rifle and shoots just as Will drops. The tentacles of the Kraken are wrapped around the barrels and they’re blown. Except they haven’t killed the Kraken, they’ve only made it angry. Jack gives the order to abandon ship. Elizabeth stops to thank Jack and kisses him (Will sees…and apparently that bit was not in Orlando’s script so they got a more genuine reaction). What Will doesn’t see is Elizabeth chain Jack to the mast. She claims to the six other survivors that Jack elected to stay behind. Jack frees himself just as the mouth of the Kraken comes over the side. He gets a whole bunch of spit shot at him, including his hat. Striking a hero pose, he snarks “Hello, beastie,” and is devoured.
Jones isn’t as pleased as he thought he would be with Jack’s demise. He checks the chest and finds it empty. He curses Sparrow. Actually, Norrington has the heart and delivers it to Beckett.
The crew of the Pearl hold a memorial for Jack at Tia Dalma’s shack. Will, seeing how upset Elizabeth is, and not completely understanding why, offers to try to get Jack back. Tia asks them how far are they willing to go? Will they brave the haunted and weird shores at world’s end? [title dropping the next movie] They all agree. So, they’ll need a captain who knows those waters. Boots come down the stairs…Barbossa is back. (The cast wasn’t aware it was Barbossa returning, so they’re surprise was genuine)
Overall, I still find this movie better than the fourth and fifth installments. As stated previously, I liked the character development. I still really can’t stand Jack (a bit too dishonest), but I can appreciate that they are showing different sides of him and showing a more genuine heroic streak. Norrington is still a bit of a jerk; I hate Beckett. He wants power for power’s sake and will use any means to obtain it. It was insinuated that he’s had a run in with Jack before and is most likely the one responsible for branding Jack as a pirate and possibly the reason Jack had to get the Pearl back in the first place, thus causing his deal with Jones.
I have mixed feelings about Elizabeth. What I dislike the most about this film is the ridiculous love triangle they felt inclined to include. It was shown that Elizabeth like Will from a young age, putting aside social barriers to befriend him and she only made the deal with Norrington in the first film to save Will. The whole flirting bit aboard the Pearl between Jack and Elizabeth is nonsense. Yes, it points out that underneath it all, Elizabeth has a pirate streak and Jack has a good streak and Jack is more likely to flirt with a woman that speak honestly. But what bugs me the most is how it hurts Will. A man who always tries to do the right thing. He finds out his long-lost and believed dead father is actually alive and bond in service aboard the Flying Dutchman; he’s angry for a little bit, but still decides to save his father, rather than leave him to his fate. While he does view Jack as a friend on occasion, the main reason he goes after the pirate is to save Elizabeth. I still like the fact that Elizabeth will join in the fight for her freedom, and Will’s. But she doesn’t tell Will what she did when the Pearl was taken and lets her fiancé stew.
Now, the action was amazing. They were ingenious in how the Pearl fought the Kraken, throwing in nice dramatic moments. The duel on the wheel was incredible and even just having a three-way duel was cool; two people sometimes joining to fight one, or all hacking away at each other individually. The featured cellist in the soundtrack was superb; a cello brings such warmth and emotion to a piece. The Kraken’s theme echoes the sense of something stalking the hero, waiting for the right moment to strike, then wreaking terrible destruction. Very cool to bring in the organ in such a manner, not only having it play a mournful tune, but also underneath the attack.
We’ll finish up next time with At World’s End