Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

One for All, and All for One!

It was peculiar, but it might be signs of things to come. When I entered the theatre this evening for the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest gala premiere today at Cathay, on screen was this static frame of the PoTC logo, with the words: "Singapore, Home of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, May 2007". If I may read too much into it, does it mean that there will be no effort spared in having the World Gala of PoTC3 right here on our shores, since Singapore was mentioned in both PoTC1 and PoTC2? And with Chow Yun-Fatt's wife being from here, does it mean we got an additional boost? One can only dream, but you heard it here first.

Anyway, our favourite characters from the high seas are back! From perennial favourite Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, to fan girl groupie idol Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, it's no wonder why the movie has sailed its way comfortably into the record books for the highest grossing opening weekend. Familiar elements that made the first movie a success are continued here to ensure the sequel's appeal and probably longevity in holding high box office spots in weeks to come.

While I shall avoid the specifics of the plot, it meanders around the title's Dead Man's Chest, a box containing an artefact so powerful, that everyone, ranging from our pirates, to new villain Davy Jones, to the British East India Company, are actively seeking so as to rule the seven seas. The usual lead characters are back, with an expanded cast made up by some supporting characters from the first movie, and new ones developed, especially the villains.

But bugger, a big budgeted crowd pleasing summer popcorn flick comes with certain flaws though, but easily overlooked and forgiven. The plot doesn't seem to stand still, and there are many subplots thrown all over, no doubt made complicated by Jack Sparrow's seemingly scheming ideas. The first half, widely used in the trailers, seemed to drag on forever with slapstick comedy included which lost steam halfway through. Not to mention with plot holes so big you wonder how certain characters can actually survive.

The sets still looked as spectacular, though already tinged with a sense of familiarity. Jack Sparrow's Black Pearl now has been overshadowed by Davy Jones' Flying Dutchman, which is an awesome eery looking ship that comes with submerging properties. There are plenty of special effects and makeup done, and Sparrow's and Barbossa's jolly crew from the first are now given the one-up by Jones' merman sea-creature like pirates. Even Jones' himself consisted of medusa-like squid tentacles on his squishy wet face, and has a humongous crab claw for a hand.

The usual comedic elements are not forgotten, but somehow lacked as much fun and punch which audiences experienced in the original. It's one of those you-know-it's-suppose-to-be-funny-but-why-aren't-I-laughing-out-loud moments. The action sequences are also bigger and louder, but that made it a tad overdrawn at certain times. Though visually pleasing, it's as if the sequences had to justify the many cool special effects shots and stunts designed for the movie, and so had to extend its runtime for that purpose.

The clincher for this movie is perhaps the characterization and relationships. It reminded the audience of several character motivations, and provided new ones as well. Unexpected character changes and shifts will make you go "Hmm!" and provide additional fuel to power the trilogy into its final film.

This movie, being the second part of the trilogy, suffered from being the "bridging" tale. While it has some kind of a standalone story, it's still part of a bigger picture not fully explained in itself. I likened the movie to being the equivalent of the Matrix Reloaded in the Wachowski Bros' Matrix Trilogy, with plenty of ideas, characters, sub plots, character shifts thrown into the mix, in a plot that goes around, before hanging with a cliffhanger.

***** SPOILERS START *****

Come to think of it, it's gonna be much like the Revolution's (and even Star War's Return of the Jedi) first act, where our heroes have to seek out and redeem their charismatic messiah.

***** SPOILERS END *****

So ahoy mates! It's nonetheless a stormy ride, but one which will lead us to anticipate the story to sail over to the Orient, passing through Singapore (finally get to see exactly what Jack's been boasting about all this while), and meeting up with their Asian counterparts. It's gonna be one heck of a multi-way fight at world's end!

And oh, stay tuned until after the end credits for a small scene, but one which probably doesn't contain any clues, or directly influencing the final movie.

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