starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgård
screenplay by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
directed by Gore Verbinski
by Walter Chaw I've liked almost everything Gore Verbinski's done up to this point--he's treated genre pictures with a degree of sobriety that's refreshing when snarky post-modernism seems the golden mean. But Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (hereafter Pirates 2, though "Pirates Reloaded" is perhaps the more appropriate paraphrase) carries with it the taint of desperation that comes with impossibly raised expectations and a burgeoning "known" director who--for lack of a better idea--devotes himself to the notion that magnification is the same thing as inspiration. A giant budget and a franchise tag is an effective snuff to that alchemical combination of energy and brilliance that has thus far typified Verbinski's output, and Pirates 2 is exhibit one of just how boring an unimaginably expensive a blockbuster can be when it jettisons character and story in favour of gimmick and state-of-the-art-for-now special effects. The first of two consecutively-shot sequels, the movie has the added difficulty of being entrusted (like Episode II, The Two Towers, and The Matrix Reloaded) with the exposition third of the tripartite narrative arc. Pirates 2 is a middle without a beginning or end that tries to compensate for that deficiency by throwing money at the problem. Yo ho-hum.