Year Released: 2006
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy
(PG-13, 145 min.)
"A debt may get moldy, but it never decays." Chinua Achebe
Apparently Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is entirely too much fun for carping critics used to wallowing in the postmodern depression of recent cinema. Personally, I haven’t enjoyed an opening as much since Raiders of the Lost Ark way back in 1981.
Actually, by opening I mean the first showings of the film, not the action sequences that initiate it, because, as everyone already knows, nothing can rival the beginning roll of Raiders. What a joy, albeit somewhat of an inconvenience, to find the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest sold out on Sunday, and then still packed for Tuesday’s matinee.
There’s something about being in the audience, pressed shoulder to shoulder, that heightens the experience, like the cozy feeling you get in a crowded restaurant where the laughter and tinkling glasses make good food taste even better. And while it was fun to pretend I was at a private screening when only a handful of sorry souls were there with me in the darkened audience, it was sort of creepy as well.
Oh, the wonders of capitalism. While the elites fawned over a steady diet of angst films glorying in endless study of humanity’s dark underbelly, the public generally stayed at home and waited for the DVD. And how satisfying that Disney, which had the audacity to base a film on a ride from one of their theme parks, is actually leading Hollywood’s comeback!
And perhaps a little ironic that it owes much of its wildly soaring block buster appeal to Francophile Johnny Depp, who I would guess is adamantly opposed to anything Disney, except the letterhead on the especially large checks he will, in true roguish fashion, pocket from the film. Perhaps here we see how he has channeled his immensely captivating Captain Jack Sparrow – Johnny too has a little buccaneer in him. When it all comes down to it, my dear, it is the cash and not the principles that count.
Indeed, Depp does own this film, adding some swish to his swashbuckling, some rum breath to the orders he slurs to his crew, and definitely drunken teetering to his promenades on deck. Only someone as confidently outrageous as Depp (or Captain Jack Sparrow) could get away with these anti-PC antics.
He not only bends his gender, but Depp bends the genre as well. With his rum addiction and the golden teeth behind his winsome smile, not to mention his “hygiene challenged” dreadlock charm, Depp is at once both Treasure Island’s Long John Silver and Errol Flynn’s square-jawed Captain Blood. Beside him, young Will Turner, the flower of Elizabeth’s (Kiera Knightley’s) affection, is Orlando without his Bloom -- completely good, excessively brave, absolutely loyal, and yes, sadly, a tad bit dull. No wonder the magic compass in Elizabeth’s hand points to Sparrow even as Turner staggers onto the scene, and the passionate kiss that welcomes him seems to protest too much.
Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten to mention the plot. Well it’s not unlike Treasure Island, a buried chest and the mad hunt to find the key and its whereabouts. Only what’s inside isn’t exactly treasure, and it’s not just money and power at stake, but Captain Sparrow’s soul -- that is, if he has one.
Along the way we meet Davy Jones, more octopus than man, with a writhing beard that puts Medusa’s coiffure to shame. His living-dead crew is the Star Wars’ bar beasts gone nautical and crusty. C3PO and R2D2 are two grimy lowlifes, without teeth or education. MacKenzie Crook’s Ragetti is as ignorantly wise as Shakespeare’s grave digger, illiterate but philosophically intense, and able to justify petty thievery with a moral tone and glib tongue right up there with the current members of Congress.
This must see summer film sizzles across the screen and reminds us of what the big screen was made for – over the edge action, fantastic special effects, creepy beasties, and of course, romance with a capital R.
The closest we ever get to a hot meal in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is waiting for captain Jack Sparrow to be roasted on a skewer by the somewhat troubled tribe who sees him as God and wants to free him from his body – so, of course, they can eat it. But though wrapped around a stick like some careless kabob, the fire beneath him beginning to spark, Captain Jack never gives up, even if it means using the very skewering stick as a catapult to freedom.
And we must admit, the captain is a tad stringy. Furthermore, most recipes do not call for marinating the dish in rum for years on end. A safer choice for our Caribbean meal is Mahi-Mahi rather than Sparrow on the skewer, don’t you think?
Mahi-Mahi with Pineapple-Mandarin Sauce
Serve this dish over cooked rice.
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pineapple juice
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine) or slightly sweet white wine (such as Riesling)
- 2 cups diced fresh pineapple
- 1 1/2 pounds mahi-mahi steaks, cut into 24 (1-inch) pieces
- 24 (1-inch) cubes fresh pineapple
- 24 (1-inch) pieces green bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Cooking spray
- Chopped fresh chives (optional)
Combine chopped onion and honey in a medium nonstick skillet, and place over medium heat. Cook 12 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add red wine and the next 4 ingredients (wine through mirin); cook 10 minutes. Stir in diced pineapple, and cook 5 minutes. Keep warm.
Thread 3 mahi-mahi pieces, 3 pineapple cubes, and 3 bell pepper pieces alternately onto each of 8 (12-inch) skewers. Sprinkle kebabs with sage, salt, and black pepper. Place the kebabs on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill kebabs 15 minutes or until fish is done, turning every 5 minutes. Serve with pineapple sauce. Sprinkle with chives, if desired.
Recipe Source: Cooking Light