The other night, we rented and watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest for the very first time. We missed it when it was in the theaters, so we were fairly anxious and excited to catch it on DVD. We actually rented it the day it came out. That evening we tucked the kids in, popped some corn, positioned the couch just right and got ready for what should have been a smashing sequel to an exceptional popcorn flick.
First, lets talk about why the first Pirates was so great. Even though at its very core, this film is utterly Disney—being based on the classic Disneyland ride, it was much more Depp than Disney. And what does that mean? It means that there was a rebel-ness about it, a can’t-believe-he-got-away-with-that vibe to his performance.
When Michael Eisner visited the set of the first Pirates, early on in the shooting schedule, he was disturbed by Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow. Eisner vocally opposed things like, oh let’s see, the heavy use of eyeliner and his drunken/effeminate demeanor while shooting. Apparently Eisner thought he put the kibosh on it all—that was until he saw the final cut of the film and Cap’n Jack’s performance was there, as we know it in all its glory. And I guess it really wasn’t that big of a deal to him once the buzz started, not to mention the Oscar nod.
As far as Pirates: Part Deux is concerned, here’s what I think happened. Besides the indecipherable plotline, the complete lack of character development, and the over-the-top action sequences that had nothing to do with the story itself—I think the issue was this. Rather than the film being great despite Disney like the first one, the second one was trying as hard as it could to be great because of Disney.
The real villain was MIA, there was no Eisner to snub and you could see it in Johnny’s eyes. There was an expectation already set and he couldn’t come out of nowhere with a jaw-dropping performance. Depp with no Eisner is basically like Superman with no Lex Luthor, flat, soulless, and without real conflict. Plus the flick was also like 45 minutes too long, but whatever.
PS: For more awesome Eisner folklore check out the book Disney War by James B. Stewart.