"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" Review
Length: 143 minutes
Release Date: July 9, 2003
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Stars: 4 out of 5
"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" single-handedly made pirates stylish again in the eyes of moviegoers everywhere. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Jack Sparrow wasn't his first role, but it is arguably his most well known to today's audiences. This movie is also notable for being Disney's first major release rated higher than PG. It has a mixture of high adventure, humor, swashbuckling swordplay, and everything people expect from a pirate film.
The film opens on the ocean in the 1700s, where a ship is sailing from England to Port Royal, a British colony in the Caribbean. A young girl, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), is singing a pirate song in the fog when the ship comes across the wreckage of another ship. They find one survivor: a young boy named Will Turner. They bring him aboard and sail to the New World after Elizabeth takes the strange medallion the boy is carrying.
After a time skip of several years, Will Turner has become a blacksmith and forged a sword for Elizabeth's father, the Governor. To Will's sorrow, she is to be married to Commodore Norrington, a captain in the British navy. As preparations for the marriage are being made, the majestic score kicks in and a sinking boat slowly approaches the dock with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) standing atop the mast. He steps onto the dock and is stopped by two soldiers. Meanwhile, Elizabeth faints due to a too-tight corset and falls into the water. Jack jumps in, pulls her out, and is arrested for being a pirate, albeit one with a broken compass and a pistol with a single shot. Jack manages to escape and gets into a sword fight with Will. They have amusing banter, until Jack is apprehended again and imprisoned.
During this time, it turns out that Jack's old crew on a ship called the Black Pearl have made their way to Port Royal to do some plundering. Everyone gets caught up in the struggle of defending the town, and Elizabeth is kidnapped. Will and Jack then have to join forces to rescue her; Will breaks Jack out of his cell, and Jack will, in return, get him to the Black Pearl.
Aboard the Pearl, Elizabeth is talking with Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who explains the reason for the raid. Some years back, the crew had stolen a chest of cursed Aztec gold, and they have been turned into undead versions of themselves incapable of tasting food, drink, or enjoying anything. To break the curse, they need to recover all the medallions along with a bit of blood from each pirate that stole it. The piece Elizabeth took was originally Will's, and he is the son of the Pearl's missing crew member, Bootstrap Bill. From here, the two parties make their way across the Caribbean from the pirate haven of Tortuga to the Isla de Muerta for the final confrontation over the sacred treasure, with allegiances and plans changing along the way, which is reminiscent of an "Indiana Jones" film. At the end, Will and Elizabeth get married, and the film closes on Jack's looking at his compass.
Although Will and Elizabeth are supposed to be the main characters, Will's personality comes off as bland. Jack Sparrow more than makes up for it, becoming the mascot for the franchise. He has a way of appearing insane but is deceptively clever. In addition, many of his lines are highly quotable, and he is responsible for introducing the word 'savvy' to a generation of moviegoers.
In addition to the memorable characters such as Barbossa, Elizabeth, Norrington, and several of the pirates, the movie is enjoyable because of the presentation. It revels in its story, as would be expected of a Disney-made film. It's refreshing to enjoy a simple story filled with adventure and magic, even if the pirates are portrayed more positively than they actually are. Piracy is shown as a lifestyle of complete freedom, when in reality pirates steal, rape, and kill on a near-daily basis.
Klaus Badelt's music score adds to the adventurous mood. Viewers are likely to spend the next day incessantly humming "He's a Pirate," Jack Sparrow's theme and arguably the theme of the franchise. The frightening moments are accentuated with loud, discordant music, and the duels are scored with appropriately fast-paced music. The visual effects, such as the undead pirates' transformation into their skeletal forms, are seamless, and the various ships are portrayed convincingly. Overall, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" is an enjoyable film. It leverages star talent, a quality musical score, and breathtaking visual effects to tell a tale of adventure on the high seas.