In Hollywood, what would seem to be the primary ingredients for making, what would hopefully become a successful sequel? Well, there’s the bigger and supposedly better story, returning cast members, possibly the same director that crafted the previous film, and of course, the mentality of use what has worked before and don’t change much of anything. Sometimes all of those components when mixed together works rather well, giving audiences another fun movie experience in the vein of the original while being different enough to keep our interest (examples are “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “X2: X-Men United”). For every success story, there is always a failure, where the components are all there but something went wrong along the way, and the movie felt too much like we’ve been there done that (examples are “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” and “Ocean’s Twelve”). So, after Walt Disney Studios achieved a surprising box office smash with “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” it wasn’t all that shocking to learn that they had pushed into production not only one, but two sequels to cash in on the pirate mayhem with 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest” and 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End”.

“Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest” begins with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) having their wedding interrupted by being arrested for their actions while aiding in the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). To earn their freedom, they must track down Jack and retrieve his compass, but this is no ordinary compass. In fact the compass is linked to the legendary Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), an undead pirate with a squid-like face, whom Jack just so happens to be indebted to for being made Captain of the Black Pearl. As if this wasn’t enough to worry about, along their journey Will discovers that his father is actually still alive and living out his days as one of the undead crewmen aboard Davy Jones’ ship, the Flying Dutchman. Now, Will and Elizabeth must find a way to ensure their freedom, while helping Jack settle his debt, and somehow freeing Will’s dad from his curse. Let the pirate fun begin.

Well, did Disney make the right decision in making a sequel to their blockbuster film “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”? Essentially, yes, the decision was smart, but the execution was somewhat questionable. Disney made a ton of money off of this film, and the movie was very good for the most part. The story was much bigger than that of the first film’s; however, it was almost too big at times with so much happening that the viewer almost loses track of some of the plotlines. Of course, this decision makes more sense due to the fact that this film was being made simultaneously with the third film ‘At World’s End’ and when both were completed they would essentially combine to form one giant movie. So, the seemingly bloated storyline wasn’t as overblown when viewed from the perspective of this film being only the first part of a new two-part story. With that being said, I did enjoy the story for this film, I thought the essence of the story was still very much in touch with the first film, though somewhat darker than the original, there was still plenty of fun throughout the picture. The characters had all moved forward to an extent from where we’d left them at the end of the first film. Well, all except Jack, of course. He’s still the same old quirky, somewhat out of his mind, yet somehow manages to survive pirate as he’s always been. It was nice to see that the stakes were all much higher for each of the main characters this time around, and that their lives were all much more complicated by choices that they made in the first film and apparently some made during the time between the two films. This film had a very distinct ‘reap what you sow’ theme running through it, which was a nice touch, since that was in some ways the theme from the first film, a good way of linking the films other than just having the same basic cast of characters.

The cast was great, especially Johnny Depp in his Oscar nominated role of Captain Jack Sparrow. Just as he did in the first film, Depp manages to steal every scene he is in, and at times you wish he was on the screen more because some of the scenes seem to kind of drag by without his presence. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley were even better as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann this time around. Orlando seemed much more sure of himself, and was much more of a leader type than he was in the first movie. While Keira’s character of Elizabeth was less the damsel in distress, and more of a heroine who was quite capable of taking care of herself, which was a nice advancement for her character’s overall story arc. The newest additions to the cast with Bill Nighy as Davy Jones, who was a much more menacing and deadly villain than Barbosa, and Stellan Skarsgard as Bootstrap Bill Turner (Will’s father), were both excellent choices for new characters that fit in perfectly with this film series.

The motto that Disney must have used in regards to this film, and its sequel, must have been “Bigger is better”, because everything about this movie lives up to that statement. From the sets to the action, from the story to the special effects, every aspect of this film is way beyond the scope of the original, which is great except by setting the bar so high with the first two movies, it would be difficult to top with the third film that finishes the story started here.

Which leads me to my complaint of this movie not having a proper ending. The first movie was self-contained, but when you get to ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ you have a little over a two-hour movie that when it ends you still don’t have any sort of resolution, instead you have to watch another film to see how it all ends. Why not make this movie relatively self-contained as well, with only a few loose ends to tie up, that way you don’t rely on the next film to be great to ensure that audiences will continue to enjoy this film. I know why Disney opted for this route, the strategy of filming back-to-back and linking the movies directly into one another worked for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and since they knew they were going to be making two sequels why not film back-to-back. That decision was fine (and was probably smart), but that doesn’t mean you have to make the sequel remain unfinished and finish the story in the next movie like the ‘Rings’ trilogy did. It’s highly frustrating to me when I have to watch the next movie in a series to know whether or not I’m going to fully enjoy the movie I just got done watching. I want to be able to judge the one movie by itself without needing to know what will happen next. That’s why I can’t enjoy this movie as much as the first film, because it’s an unfinished movie.

With all that being said, “Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest” is a fun movie to watch, it is darker than the first film, so parents may want to consider that before letting little kids watch it. Definitely a great continuation of the ‘Pirates’ series, but shows signs of possible trouble for the franchise by setting the bar too high with the first two movies so that the third may disappoint, and by relying on the third film to complete the second. Regardless of all that, if you enjoyed the first film, do check this one out.

“Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest” is rated PG-13 for violence.