Reviewed by: Lori Souder
piracy and other sins
THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer
What is the Occult? Answer
Is there an actual place called “Hell”? Answer
Why was Hell made? Answer
Is there anyone in Hell today? Answer
Will there literally be a burning fire in Hell? Answer
What should you be willing to do to stay out of Hell? Answer
How can a God of love send anybody to Hell? Answer
What if I don’t believe in Hell? Answer
The Good News—How to be saved from Hell. Answer
|Featuring||Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgård|
|Producer||Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Eric McLeod|
|Distributor||Walt Disney Studios|
As a huge fan of the first movie, I could not wait for the next installment. I was surprised to see a large amount of merchandising for the movie including chocolate and marshmallow breakfast cereal, white chocolate and other limited edition M&Ms, and fruit snacks. Most of the merchandising that I saw was aimed at smaller children. Disney even decided to, under a shroud of secrecy, update the venerable “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disney World park, despite grave misgivings of many faithful Disneyites. Regretfully, I am here to report, all is not well.
“The Curse of the Black Pearl”, the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, centers around a tattered but magnificent ship of legend that is the fastest on the seven seas. This ghostly ship is powered by a cursed wind of ill-gotten treasure and peopled by some pretty unsavory undead buccaneers. The doomed pirates are, despite their brutality and greed, somehow made at times to be endearing and comic. We feel some sympathy for them, because they are painted as still very human.
The first movie manages to seamlessly combine gorgeous cinematography, humor, both dry and broad, fantastic special effects, magnetic actors, an exciting and riveting plot, lush locations, and a perfect soundtrack. Most impressively, it is all kept in the Disney tradition of “a fun time was had by all.” It was, however, rated PG-13 and was certainly too scary for very young or sensitive children. Disney even managed to get in some excellent moral lessons, which are: Ill-gotten gains will never satisfy and will become an anchor around the neck, and—don’t judge someone by other people’s prejudices, decide a person’s merits by his or her actions.
As one would expect, the actual conduct of real pirates had to be whitewashed for the first movie. Pirates were well known for their raping and debauching habits, but while “The Curse of the Black Pearl” hints at these, most of the scenes are elegant and finely-crafted sword fighting and general plundering. Bloodletting is kept to a minimum, and the camera cuts away from showing blood and graphic death.
One would anticipate that the second movie in the franchise would be similar, since it did so very well at the box office. The second movie, “Dead Man’s Chest,” is a pathetic, illegitimate stepchild that should have never been conceived. The movie starts out dark, gets darker, dives eagerly into the realm of Hades and ends up with nowhere lower to go. While “The Curse of the Black Pearl” was light-hearted, “Dead Man’s Chest” has a Heart of Malevolence.
In “Dead Man’s Chest,” all debts previously incurred in the first movie must be paid. Wrongs must be atoned for, promises must be kept. Or so it seems. The movie opens with a forlorn and spoiled wedding for Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom). We then learn that these two are to stand trial for helping a pirate escape and that their demise looks very likely. The whole colony is in chaos, and a new authority is disposing the old. The world is changing, and pirates as well as colonist must find their place in the new order of things.
We soon find Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is still a free-wheeling pirate and now is on a quest for a key that will open a cursed little treasure chest that holds the secret to controlling Davy Jones, his enemy. Jack escapes from a prison with the help of a dead body. We quickly discover that gruesome and decayed human body parts and graphic images of stomach-turning monstrosities of semi-humanity rain down constantly in this movie like manna from heaven. What could be inside the chest that is so powerful as to hold sway over the devilish ancient mariner? Trust me, you really don’t want to know, let alone see it… could it possibly be another grisly and disembodied human body part? BINGO! Just keep in mind that the fine studios at Disney have worked very hard to make every disgusting abomination in the movie as real looking as possible for your cinematic enjoyment.
The heaviest hand imaginable was used on the “in your face” violence and horrifically-ugly special effects. The first movie was very beautiful and/or amazing in every scene, where “Dead Man’s chest” is so hideous, many viewers may find it difficult to watch. Each character has to be constantly corrupted with filth, slime, blood, disease or deformity—with the exception of Elizabeth. In her case, the cleavage on her wedding dress has to be literally “over the top.” And later in the movie, she goes completely out of character to give Jack Sparrow a nearly pornographic kiss, for supposedly a good reason. In the plot, a chaste kiss would have done the trick and been less suspicious, but Disney thought that they had to take every opportunity to “sex up” a movie with so very few female characters. Tia, the voodoo woman, of course, has to be lecherous. This movie could not possibly be intended for women and children?!
People of color or African decent did not fare well at all in the film. I was heartsick and angry at the portrayal of the tribe of cannibals that made them all one-dimensional, evil sub-humans. However, the good news is that a great deal of time was spent to individualize their bodily mutilations and tribal face and body painting! I was disgusted that while great lengths had gone into humanizing the (enlightened, yet horribly evil) pirates in both movies, the tribal people were used just for effects sake. The rest of the people of color in this sequel were mostly used as half-submerged, zombie light fixtures. Tia, (played by Naomie Harris) the voodoo witch of great power is one of the very, very, rare female characters and newly introduced in the “Dead Man’s Chest”. Because she is obviously an adorable and charming-looking person, she was given black teeth to make her so repulsive that we could barely stand to look at her to appreciate her fine performance. This is in stark contrast to the first film where there is an attractive and intelligent female pirate captain of color that commands her own ship!
I have seen culturally cannibalistic tribal people portrayed in a much more realistic way that has been both humorous and intelligent. There is no excuse for this type of blatant racism. These human beings are just like everyone else, not less human or less worthy. I think this type of one-dimensional and shallow portrayal does not benefit anyone. Although there may not be an understanding in the US of this, there are still many peoples in the world that are either recently or more remotely descended from such tribal peoples in India, Africa, and various islands.
The fighting scenes were so chopped up and fast that they were perceived as just an endless blur of violence. Most of the time I could not even see who was fighting who, and it got worse and more ridiculous as the movie progressed. Each violent scene went on for so long that it became boring and seemed just a time filler. Most of the stunts did not seem to add anything to the story, and some were just ridiculous to try to get a cheap laugh. The main sea monster had no personality at all, it was just a convenient vehicle for more special effects. Anyone can make a big scary monster with no face or originality.
I saw the movie with a crowd was attending a special showing of the film. They, like me, were excited, and many wore pirate costumes. When the movie first started, a huge applause wave roared through the theater. But soon, the audience was “treated” to many extravagantly repulsive visions of human body parts used variously for: jewelry, an oar, and giant, round, rolling cages. The packed theater became strangely quiet. The laughs were sparse and half-hearted, and the shock started setting in. There were many children and women in the audience. After the movie was over, there were a few isolated claps that quickly silenced. I saw the crowd as I peered around me, and many had disgusted or repulsed looks on their faces and seemed rather disoriented and disturbed.
The ending of the second movie could not have been more different than the ending of the prequel. The feeling I got after watching it was to go home quickly and take a couple of hot baths to rid myself of the stench and filth that I had just been tricked into subjecting myself to.
In my opinion, this movie was not at all a PG-13 movie; it should have been rated R. Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Deep) repeatedly said British slang for the f-word. Violence, suffering, death, cannibalism, killing, drunkenness, high stakes gambling, and betrayal is the focus of the movie. The visuals were sometimes so revolting that it was very, very hard for me to look at the screen. It is constantly gruesome, gory, grimy, and gross—with barely an instant of anything else to serve as relief.
There is no justice served in the movie. When laws are broken, instead of trying to work within the system, Will, Elizabeth, and Jack all endeavor to get out of their situation by running away, or making immoral and illegal deals. All the characters think that they are above the law and their word of honor. One character “wins” by putting a gun to an authority’s head to get the job done. Another refuses to honor his promise by offering to kill 99 innocents in his stead! Another makes a deal to get his own freedom and leaves someone else to rot in jail. Elizabeth’s father, formally an important official, illegally releases her from prison. The one person who meters out justice is completely corrupt. All the character and ethics that were developed in “The Curse of the Black Pearl”’s lead actors are assassinated in the second movie. Will retains some of his ethics in regards to his father, Bootstrap Bill, but the perverted movie plot involves his father being forced to graphically whip Will’s back into a bloody mess. This is not what most people expect from a Disney movie!
On the plus-side—and there isn’t much on the plus side, the Davy Jones character was very interesting, and the face and body seemed most likely developed before the movie visually and ethically ran aground. The face of the creature is very intriguing and expressive and one of the few that I wanted to (or could stand to) look at for a any period of time. The eyes were full of expression, and even though he is supposed to be pure evil, the performance was very subtle and multifaceted. It was the only new character that was of the quality that one would expect after enjoying the first movie.
On the down-side, all the effects and violence and digital enhancing of everyone else is so in your face that it was just painful to watch. There was no suspense, no mystery to care about. The plot was very good and workable, but it played out poorly. There was some sloppy editing here and there that made parts of the story line seem inconsistent. Characters who I thought we knew and liked did so many things that seemed merely for effect only. It made caring about the characters harder and harder. By the end, I did not like any of them. To make the first movie’s spunky and lovable main cast so completely unappealing took quite some doing!
A tremendous opportunity was lost by the decision to portray the Davy Jones crew as merely cartoons instead of interestingly real and supernatural at the same time. In the first movie the pirates appeared human and had personalities until the moonlight revealed them as they truly were, undead. But the crew of the Flying Dutchmen had almost no humanity to them. We never heard about their individual stories and struggles or why they ended up making the damnation deal they did, so the audience had no feeling or sympathy for them. There were just talking digital figurines that were as repulsive as a horribly gone wrong gene spicing experiment between humans and crustaceans. After the initial shock, I just wanted not to have to look at them anymore. If the movie had progressed like the first one, the waterlogged crew (and the ship) could have appeared more lifelike and mysterious while above the water line and then when they went below the surface later, they could have been revealed in a real “ah ha!” moment and the special effects could have been metered out more judiciously. It would have added a connection and believability to the once human characters that was sadly lacking. What a waste.
The notion of religion is touched upon a few times, once as a joke about an illiterate person trying to read the bible, and another as someone holds a cross on Davy Jones’ ship. But basically the movie is silent about using the goodness of God being the only way to fight all the evil. None of the characters needed God or his help, they were “fine” without it. The movie is really about using evil to get what you want. There are only bad moral lessons in this movie, and it has no redeeming values or good entertainment. This is the opposite of the first movie, “The Curse of the Black Pearl” which I have only good things to say about.
Apparently, Disney, the movie director, producer, and financiers of the first “Pirate of the Caribbean” movie all made a deal with the Devil. They somehow sold their soul for the success of “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and now the bill has come due. So they made the second movie and billed and advertised it as a good-time family movie. They are now doing their best to desensitize viewers to cannibalism, body mutilation, violence, killing of animals, gambling, drunkenness, situational ethics, and the use of both fresh and decayed human corpses for adornment and construction material. And amazingly, the movie actually ends with a similar deal with the Dark Side by our once beloved main characters. They state to Tia while in her heinous lair, they will do anything, and I do mean anything, to bring about the third movie. Matey, you can’t say you haven’t been warned.
Personally, I will never trust the Disney-brand again. After the extremely repulsive and racist first few minutes of the movie, I was right in thinking that it would be nearly impossible for the movie to dig itself out of the offensive and disgusting slimy hole it had made. I will not be buying the DVD of the “Dead Man’s Chest” to put next to “The Black Pearl”, and I feel like throwing out all the “Pirates of the Caribbean” fruit snacks and cereal we have in the pantry. If this is what Disney movies have come to, where do we turn for decent family entertainment? I hope that reviewers and the public are honest about this complete sell-out of a once worthy franchise. And I dare to hope that Disney will perhaps listen honestly and once again return to the values and quality that made me idolize Mr. Walt Disney and admire his vision for a better future and meaningful family values.
Violence: Very Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild