Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Posted by on Dec 30, 2011 in Let's Get Ready to Rumble | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: Some mild violence, scary villains, and rum.

What began as a shameful two-hour advertisement for Disney’s theme park ride ended up being a hugely successful blockbuster and an excellent swashbuckler, driven almost entirely by Johnny Depp’s hilarious performance.

The film initially follows the governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who for many years held onto a pirate medallion. But when that medallion eventually touches the water, an infamous ghost ship called The Black Pearl (which is “crewed by the damned”) arrives to retrieve the coin and kidnap Elizabeth. It seems the crew, led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), has been cursed by an 882-piece treasure and needed Elizabeth’s piece to restore order and end the curse. Meanwhile, doting blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) wants to retrieve the would-be maiden, but calls for help from The Black Pearl’s former captain Jack Sparrow (Depp), who merely wants to regain his former post.

With mutiny, exile, pillaging, treasure, curses, sword fights, kidnapping, betrayal, and rum, this epic is on the scale of Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood or Mutiny on the Bounty, which is a rare find in contemporary cinema. That’s not to say the film is entirely on par with those (just look at the sequels), but it’s an entirely enjoyable experience nonetheless.

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Depp’s performance, reportedly inspired by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, is an absolute gem and holds the sometimes-unstable film together (it makes tons of lame references to the ride). As Captain Jack, Depp redefines the role of a typically alpha male pirate movie protagonist as we get the feeling he’s not entirely brave, not a gifted swordsman or captain, but a goofy, make-up wearing drunk. Kind of like an emo college freshman, only funny. Several of Hollywood’s leading men were considered for Captain Jack, but Depp brought a lot to the role, including improvising many of the film’s exceptional one-liners. “Savvy?” Bloom seems a little out of place as an action hero (a tad too effeminate if you ask me), but a 17-year-old Knightley does a decent job bringing some independence and strength to the typical damsel-in-distress role. Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, and Mackenzie Crook also star in this Gore Verbinski-directed flick.

Of all of Disney’s films, this was the first to earn a PG-13 rating and the first ever premiere at Disneyland. The film garnered five Oscar nominations including one, deservedly, for Depp. Although it may be hard, I suggest you avoid the three sequels at all costs. Perhaps you’ve seen them at your local movie place in the $5 bin with the titles Pirates of the Caribbean 2: The Search for More Money and Pirates of the Caribbean 3: We’re Disney, What Else are We Going to Do?. They introduce an endless number of plots, some still left unresolved or dropped entirely, and instead turn to even more pointless action sequences and CGI show-offery. As Ask a Ninja so aptly noted, “It needed a lot more Gore, and a lot less Verbinski.”

In the end, this first installment is a boatload of fun (pun intended) and, like the ride’s theme song, the kids will be chirping “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me.”

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