TMP Vintage Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

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The Set Up:

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl opens with Elizabeth Swann, the Governor of Port Royale’s daughter, encountering a young boy floating aimlessly in the sea.  After she and the rest of the crew rescues him, Elizabeth notices an ominous ship with black sails fleeing the scene.  Years later, a now adult Elizabeth flirts with the boy she saved years ago, blacksmith Will Turner.  Despite her feelings for Will, Elizabeth’s father urges her to marry the dashing and noble Commodore Norrington.  Things get complicated, however, when Elizabeth has a run in with a group of undead pirates under the command of the villianous Barbossa.  Will, desperate to rescue her, recruits the help of former captain and eccentric pirate Jack Sparrow.  But as Will soon learns, working under the command of Jack Sparrow is no easy task…

Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, and Geoffrey Rush

Written By: Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio

Directed By: Gore Verbinski

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom

The Good:

You want to know why the Pirates films are considered required viewing for most movie buffs?  Look no further then The Curse of the Black Pearl. Despite the declining quality of the series (and you can bet I’ll get into that later on this week), The Curse of the Black Pearl cemented the legacy of the Pirates franchise.  And honestly, that’s not a surprise; in terms of blockbuster films, The Curse of the Black Pearl is a modern classic.  I’ll say it outright; I love this film.

I think the first thing I’m required to tackle when discussing the Pirates franchise is, of course, the character Jack Sparrow.  But honestly, what more can I say?  He’s one of the best characters I’ve ever seen.  Brilliantly performed by Johnny Depp, Jack Sparrow is the anchor of the franchise; without him, I’m not sure the series would have the legacy it has now.  The drunkard former captain has a hell of a debut here, easily outshining the entire cast with a witty, eccentric, and downright hilarious character.  And his first scene is probably one of the most memorable character introductions in a film.  He is the reason people love this franchise, and always will be.  No doubt about it, Jack Sparrow is up there with character greats such as Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and James Bond.

Rush and Knightley

Of course, one great character does not make a great film.  Thankfully, there’s a lot more to like about this movie.  Geoffrey Rush is great as the villainous Barbossa, and the characters of Will and Elizabeth are well defined and not annoying (unlike in later installments of the series).  All of Jack’s crew in the film are memorable and easy to like, and Jack Davenport and Jonathon Pryce are great in their respective roles.  When it comes to acting, there’s really nothing you can complain about here. The same thing applies to the direction and script; both are so well tuned that I can’t see how you COULDN’T enjoy them.

But now, the real reason I love this movie; the action.  I could make a case that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has some of the best action scenes put to film in the last 10 years; I’m to lazy to, but I could if I wanted.  The action is fantastically staged, and has a sense of place that has been missing from action films lately.  The sword fights are all well chereographed, and never take themselves to seriously, one of the things I appreciate most about these films.  In the end its all about having fun, and no matter what is happening in this film, I’m never without a smile on my face.  There’s a lot to say about this film, but that sense of enjoyment and sheer fun that exuberates from this film is the reason it’s as good as it is.  In all honesty, not since Indiana Jones have I had such a fun time watching a film.

Sparrow and Turner

The Bad:

I love The Curse of the Black Pearl, but I couldn’t will myself to put it into my favorite films of all time list.  Because, even though Black Pearl does almost everything really well, there’s a couple things halting this film from true “Best Film” status.  For one, the plot has much more holes then I remembered; upon seeing this film again, I noticed things in the film that just didn’t make sense.  There are plot holes that the film just glances over, not even trying to explain how certain things happen.  The film just moves on, not even thinking of taking the time to fill them in.

That’s another problem with the film; time.  Well I appreciate the “epic” feel of Black Pearl, it’s a harrowing experiance.  It’s one long film, espicially considering all that they could have cut out.  Well I had fun during every scene in this movie, a brisker time might have made the experiance even better.  Of course, I’ll be looking at this film as a godsend when I watch the 170 minute long At World’s End. Still, 2 hours would have done just fine.  And finally, the CGI hasn’t held up very well over the last year.  Well this is expected and not really a problem with the film, a lot of the walking skeleton animation looks not only fake, but a tad bit silly.  Like a video game coming to life on the big screen, but intermeshed with real footage.  To be fair, it could have aged much worse than it did.  Still, that’s another reason why practical effects always win; no matter what time period, they will never feel dated.  But that’s a subject for another day.

Duel!

The Scorecard:

Acting- Top notch; Johnny Depp delivers one of the best roles ever put to film.

Directing- Gore Verbinski does an ace job at making the world of Pirates feel alive.  He’s a great director, and I can’t wait to see where his career goes post-Pirates.

Writing- The dialogue is fantastic, but there are a couple plot holes that are so jarring that they throw off the film’s momentum.

Sound- A fantastic beginning to an amazing trilogy of film scores.  Klaus Badelt composes one of the best themes ever, but just wait until Hans Zimmer gets involved!

Visuals- The film is beautiful, but suffers from “Aging CGI Syndrome.”

Overall:

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a near action movie masterpiece, and deserves a spot on everyone’s DVD shelves.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

Yo Ho!