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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Movies | The visuals in Pirates are impressive-and disturbing

Issue: "Unto the breach," July 22, 2006

Anyone who's been to Disneyland knows that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is not much of a ride at all. It has a few steep, short drops, but for the most part the tethered boats that carry passengers along just move slowly down the track.

But the ride attracts long lines because it transports visitors to another world. The ride is experienced in near total darkness, except for the cleverly illuminated, life-size dioramas of pirate shenanigans and debauchery that line the waterway.

And so it goes with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The film moves a little quicker than the ride, but the emphasis on visual stimulation remains the same. That's even truer of Dead Man's Chest (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images), than it was of its predecessor, 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

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Director Gore Verbinski follows the standard rule of sequels and ups the ante on all fronts. Incredibly detailed production design, lush settings, and impressive CGI effects all help explain the enduring popularity of these films.

Dead Man's Chest is frustratingly light on story, and what story there is manages to be quite confusing. But the cast helps balance the effects, as the three main characters-Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann-all return for more action. Depp's oddly feminized and intoxicated take on a pirate captain continues to be as charismatically off the wall as ever.

But as fun as Dead Man's Chest may be, it's also rather disturbing, particularly considering the film's youthful target audience. The film is absolutely awash with gruesome death. Dead Man's Chest is a fantasy built for jolly good times, and it is disconcerting to see cannibalism, dismemberment, and general carnage treated so lightly. There were plenty of six shooters in The Apple Dumpling Gang, but I don't recall a Charles Bronson--level body count.

Considering that the film is based on a now classic amusement park ride, Dead Man's Chest could have been a lot more fun, and a lot more all-ages friendly, with a touch of restraint.

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