The term of "bigger and louder" is what returning producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and screenwriters duo Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio clearly aimed to magnify in this first sequel shot back-to-back with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END, which will due next summer. The good news is, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST is marginally entertaining than the first one with level of creativity peaked in term of dazzling action set-pieces and swashbuckling novelty. The bad news is, the sequel still suffers more of the same long-winded approach of telling an overstuffed story.
Picked up where the first movie left off, lovesick Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) are finally about to tie a knot when they are suddenly arrested by Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), representative of British East India Trading Company, on the charge of abetting a notorious pirate by the name of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). To save themselves from eventual death sentence, Will makes a deal with Beckett: he will try his best to retrieve the compass owned by Jack and bring it back with him. In return, their charges will be dropped. You see, the compass is a crucial device for Beckett to realize his five-year business plan of ruling the high seas.
As Will sets off on his dangerous mission and Elizabeth subsequently plans her own escape from jail to track him down, Jack has a trouble of his own -- apparently, he owes an unpaid debt to legendary captain of the Flying Dutchman Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a half-man and half-octopus creature whose broken heart is locked away in a buried treasure chest somewhere in an island. Now Jack must get his hand on that chest before Davy does, in order to save himself.
If you think the first one is a butt-numbing experience (depending the way how you look at the storytelling approach), this sequel have a field day stuffing just about everything from subplot to counterplot that screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio could spin a TV mini-series instead (clocking at a 151 minutes!). PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST is just like those all-you-can-eat buffet and you know you will end up feeling bloated.
All those flaws aside, the sequel remains enormously entertaining. Again, the special effects (particularly the one involving the giant octopus beast called Kraken) and production values are as top-notch as ever. And the action -- are certainly the highlights of them all. The subplot involving the cannibal-infested island is especially filled with memorable set-pieces: the hilarious bone cage sequence where Will and the pirates tried to swing back and forth across the cliff, and another scene where the terrified Jack falls from the cliff in a series of Rube Goldberg-like spectacular fashions is a must-see to believe. If that's not enough, check out the three-way swordfighting duel between Jack, Will and James (Jack Davenport) that begins amusingly in a sandy beach before continuing atop a rubble deep inside the jungle and end up spectacularly on a rolling mill wheel -- it's one heck of acrobatic stunts that certainly rivaled from Jackie Chan's trademark moves.
Now, here lies the biggest question: Can the next summer's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END lives up the promise better than this sequel that already sets the bar high? We can only wait and see.