PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL

Starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley

Directed by
Gore Verbinski

Review by Mark Walters


PLENTY OF BANG FOR YOUR SWASHBUCK

 Out of all the movies that were scheduled to be released this summer, most of my friends seemed very excited about this one.  Call it a close personal connection through childhood Disney visits, or just a pure love for films using Pirates.  Other people I spoke with were still trying to get the foul taste of CUTTHROAT ISLAND out of their mouths.  I for one was less than thrilled going in, since the trailers seemed only mildly entertaining at best.  I like Johnny Depp, so his involvement was enough to make me marginally interested.  Director Gore Verbinski wowed me with MOUSEHUNT, confused me with THE MEXICAN, and intrigued me with his alternative vision of horror in THE RING.  Last but not least, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has had a less-than-flawless record as of late, though I'm still VERY forgiving of his films for some strange reason.  I actually own CON-AIR for reasons I'm still not sure of.  So with all of these guys working together on a Disney film inspired by a park ride, can the end result really be any good?

PIRATES opens with a young girl named Elizabeth Swan sailing aboard a military ship with her Governor father (Pryce), and stumbling across the wreckage of another large ship.  She finds a young boy, who appears to be from a pirate ship, and helps save his life, hiding the gold coin she finds hanging from his neck.  Years later, Elizabeth (Knightley) has blossomed into a beautiful young woman, living a sheltered life with her father, and still keeping that gold coin hidden from those around her.  The young boy, Will (Bloom) Turner, has grown up to be a talented blacksmith, and clearly has strong affection for Elizabeth, though their social standing prevents them from ever being more than mere acquaintances.  A cocksure but goofy pirate by the name of Jack Sparrow (Depp) arrives in town, looking to steal a ship, but his presence is quickly made obvious when he rescues Elizabeth from an accidental plunge into the ocean.  As a result of wearing the gold coin around her neck, that mishap wakes up a legion of cursed pirates, led by Captain Barbossa (Rush) aboard the legendary Black Pearl ship.  They need the gold coin back for their own purposes.  The pirates attack the town, and Elizabeth is kidnapped.  In desperation Will Turner enlists the help of Jack Sparrow, and the two assemble a ragtag team of "good" pirates, and set sail searching for the treacherous crew of the Black Pearl.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL is a fun movie.  Regardless of whether or not you like Pirate films, there's plenty to enjoy here.  Thankfully the film manages to do a nice job of being a period piece, without falling victim to the common trap of integrating modern day dialogue or references.  It is a Pirate movie, and a very good Pirate movie.  Depp is delightfully funny as Captain Jack Sparrow.  His flaws are what make him so great, and he never takes himself too seriously.  Orlando "step back while the women faint" Bloom is fairly good too, though it's clear this is Depp's show.  Knightley, who looks like a slightly older and somewhat sexier Natalie Portman, is terrific with her performance, which is good considering her ample screen time.  Rush plays a formidable villain, and gets plenty of time to show us what he can do with the material he's given.  The action scenes are great, and really get you into the spirit of the film.  The sword fights are exciting as well, which is nice, since that could've ruined the film had they not been done right.  Klaus Badelt provides a powerful score that complements the film very nicely.  As with most Bruckheimer produced films, every penny is on the screen.  The sets are perfect, and the ship scenes take us right out into the ocean with the stars.  If there's one flaw with the film, it lies in the length.  Everything would've played just a bit better had 15 to 20 minutes been shaved off the total running time.  Don't get me wrong, it's a fairly fast moving film, but there's almost too much going on toward the end.  Call it a personal feeling, but I think it could've been a tad shorter.  Overall PIRATES is a great movie, and should please audiences greatly.  I'd love to see more with Captain Jack Sparrow, though it wouldn't upset me if Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan were absent from the next outing.  That's the good and bad of Depp, he's strong enough to carry a movie on his own, but often overshadows his fellow actors with great ease.  Knightley is surely destined to do more, and Bloom still gets swoons from all the girls, so I think those two will be fine regardless of what comes next.  The title was originally going to just be PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, but THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL was added in hopes that this film would be successful enough to allow for a sequel.  I think it's safe to say that will most likely happen.  Do yourself a favor and wait through the end credits for a funny surprise.

Images copyright WALT DISNEY PICTURES 2003.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL an 9.


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