Directed by Gore Verbinski. US. 2006.

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The sequel to the smash hit of 2002 and the second of an already completed trilogy reaches our shores with some high expectations following the worldwide gross and Oscar nomination for Johnny Depp's Keith Richards inspired performance as Captain Jack Sparrow that stole every moment of the first film. 

The new film starts off about a year after the first film finished on the day of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann's (Keira Knightley) wedding, which is interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) who gives them warrants for their arrest for helping in Jack's escape at the end of the first film.   

This leads to a narrative of events where Will must chase down Jack across the Caribbean, while Jack is too busy looking for the chest of Davy Jones, wherein lies all the fortune and glory for one pirate to have.  Soon, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) depicted as a giant squid gets wind of the people chasing his chest while he is after the debt Jack owes him.  In the meantime, Elizabeth escapes prison and in turn chases after Will, or is she chasing Jack and the temptation of adventure. 

The film follows this until the climatic conclusion where the frightening Kraken appears to devour the Black Pearl, wherein after it sets up the third film with an all too brief epilogue or quick enough prologue for the second sequel. 

This Pirates film, unlike the first, is unsure whether it wants to replicate the formula of the first - a mixture of slapstick humour and all out action, or if it wants to be the 'Empire Strikes Back' episode of the trilogy with dark undertones, dangerous sexual tension and father-son relations. 

I think the trilogy is following a pattern of ologys: the first one was about imperialism and how the presence of the British in the Caribbean was making it harder for pirates to operate in their lawless manner; the second is primarily about capitalism and the creation of shipping taxes, in effect making it impossible for pirates to operate but being harsh on the real sailors who cannot afford such prices.  I am not sure what the third will be about but I hope it will be more of a 'Return of the Jedi' in terms of no-holds barred action.  And the need to have some sort of resolution and completion to the trilogy will make it happen. 

The cast do their best although even Depp seems to not be having as much fun even though he gets the best lines.  Bloom attempts his best Flynn impression and Knightley her best de Havilland with a tomboy whisked in.  But the best work comes from the minor characters who rather than be comic relief are more rounded members of a group; Ragetti and Pintel the double-act are reunited at the hip but not for laughs but for friendship.  The best work though comes from Jack Davenport, returning as Commodore Norrington, whose pursuit of Jack cost him his job and way of life but her all grizzled and angry he burns off the screen becoming more of a rival and equal of Jack, than Will would ever be.  And Tom Hollander (so pleasing in 'Pride and Prejudice') is just as effective in the role of the ruler of the Caribbean who is hoping to rule the waves at any price.  

And kudos must also go to Gore Verbinski, whose skill of mixing visual humour with over the top action was first seen in 'Mousehunt', continues here with some good visual tricks.  In the jail, a camera goes down the corridor and you hear prisoners whistling - you think to entice a dog with keys to come their way.  The camera turns left to show the prisoners whistling and waving to what you presume is the dog, and then the camera turns again to show Elizabeth sitting nervously on her bench ignoring the taunts.  A good use of the audience's knowledge of the ride and also showing some history at the role of women in these times all those years ago. 

In general, the film is trying to fit too many plot points and stories into the 2½ hour length, and much like Superman you are expecting the ending and then when the ending does come you are still surprised at the swiftness of it - but the return of a once dead character should make the final Pirates film a spectacle to see and should explode in to the waters of summer 2007. 

Jamie Garwood
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