Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

While I don't believe that 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' is quite as good as 'Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back,' I do believe that 'Dead Man's Chest' can be called the 'Empire' of the 'Pirates' saga. As with 'Star Wars,' the surprise success 'Curse of the Black Pearl' spawned a boatload of diehard fans who -- much like 'Star Wars' loyalists -- like to dress up in costume when going to the movie. You think I'm joking, but I actually saw a crew of nine 40-year-old women in full pirate regalia walking through Rockefeller Plaza on Friday. Even in New York, that's something you don't see every day.

In addition to the fanatical fan base both franchises had going into their second chapters, the sequels also share story similarities. For one, there's the love triangle. You've got Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow in the Han Solo role (the swaggering cad the ladies just can't resist), Orlando Bloom's Will Turner filling Luke Skywalker's boots (the clean-cut hero you know will always do the right thing) and Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann as Leia (the fiery young beauty both guys want to bed).

And then there's those huge cliffhanger endings that leave you thirsty for more -- Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) getting ready to save Han (Harrison Ford), the 'Pirates' crew getting ready to sail out into dangerously uncharted waters. The open endings just scream, "So you think we've rocked your world so far? See what we've got coming next!" Now, while 'Return of the Jedi' started off strong and finished strong, it kind of lost steam in the middle with all that Ewok junk. I would hate to see 'Pirates' suffer the same fate, so here are five things that the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' saga can (and should) learn from 'Return of the Jedi' ...

*WARNING: DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN 'DEAD MAN'S CHEST'*

1) Don't introduce any cute little sidekicks for Jack Sparrow in 'Pirates 3.' The undead monkey and the dog are plenty. While the Ewoks didn't ruin 'Jedi,' I can assure you I didn't shed any tears when a few of them bit it fighting Storm Troopers.

2) Open with a bang. 'Jedi' begins with Luke and co. rescuing Han Solo -- and it's just about the highlight of the whole movie. It would have been a HUGE mistake to leave Han frozen in carbonite for more than three minutes -- and wisely that's pretty much exactly how long Han remains out of action. Same goes for 'Pirates.' Despite the uncertainty of Captain Jack's fate at the end of 'Dead Man's Chest,' we all know he's coming back in the third movie. So if he isn't buckling some swash on-screen by the second scene of 'Pirates 3,' that is pure insanity.

3) Give us some closure. Ending the second movie in a trilogy on a cliffhanger is acceptable, so long as you wrap things up with a nice little bow in the third flick. 'Jedi' gave us the death of the Emperor, the redemption of Vader/Anakin and the end of the evil Empire. I could have done without the Ewok dance party, but otherwise the finale was satisfying. 'Pirates 3' should give fans what they're craving: a conclusion to the whole Davy Jones story and a resolution to the Jack-Elizabeth-Will love triangle. I've got my money on Will winning Elizabeth, but you never know.

4) Shave some time off the clock. 'Dead Man'sChest' clocks in at 150 minutes, while 'Jedi's' run time is only 134. That 16 minutes helps a lot, especially when you like to drink large Cokes during a movie.

5) Give your leading lady something nice to wear. I mean, if anyone can make a poofy pirate outfit look sexy, it's Keira Knightley, but I felt a bit cheated that she wore it for three quarters of 'Dead Man's Chest.' Meanwhile, when Jabba made Leia wear that slave dancer bikini at the outset of 'Jedi,' every man in the galaxy started salivating. If Carrie Fisher looked that gorgeous, just imagine Keira in a similar dental-flossy getup. I'm getting light-headed just thinking about it.

Get 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' showtimes and tickets

See photos of Keira Knightley

categories Features, Cinematical