Before all the unfinished scripts, the nonsensical, stacked subplots, and especially before Jack Sparrow turned into a bit of a clown, there was Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. In Summer 2003, Gore Verbinski came out with this Disneyland ride-inspired film that made pirates the equivalent to rockstars, and introduced the world to the talents of Johnny Depp that were mostly hidden in independent or non-blockbuster films.
The film has a fun, rousing plot, suitable for a pirate film, and the direction of the film by Verbinski is fitting. All the references to the Disneyland ride are in place, but Verbinski expands the ride to an actual world of adventurous highs, helping us enter a world we could’ve created within our own imaginations as children. The action scenes are exciting, mixing in comedy with action, as swords clash in true form, and pistols and cannons create a rain of fire. The CGI for the undead effects is appropriately executed, and was quite impressive upon its release, and still holds up today.
In the original, Jack Sparrow is a sneaky scoundrel, battle-tested by his adventures of flirting with death, armed with sword and pistol, as well as wit sharper than any cutlass. Depp created a truly unique character in Jack Sparrow with his knack for adding a likable quirkiness to any character he plays. Jack wasn’t just humorous in this film, he was also rather charming, dangerous, and a good man beneath the dreads, filth, and coat. The rebellious gaze he gives Commodore Norrington when Elizabeth is strapping his cutlass and pistol on, the lethal look he has firing his one-shot pistol at Captain Barbossa, and his explanation of what the Black Pearl is to him are examples of the fully-realized character that Jack Sparrow is in the first go-around. Sparrow walked onto the port from a sinking boat with a drunken swagger, and instantly grabbed our attention, and we couldn’t take our eyes off of him from then on. Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa is just as amazing as Depp, playing Barbossa as a more classic pirate, complimenting Depp’s unorthodox approach to Sparrow. Rush as Barbossa is a ruthless cut-throat, with sharp eyes and a desperate longing to be alive. Both push the film to greater heights.
The Curse of the Black Pearl is equivalent to your first time riding the Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It was a novel, wholly entertaining experience that brought to life the world of pirates. Jack Sparrow was a wonderfully unpredictable, dangerously cunning rebel of the seas with a sole cause to be truly free. Sparrow’s chase to regain the Black Pearl, is his chase for freedom. If the sequels tarnished the pirates magic, just give this film another spin.
It’s running time is a bit long, and it does drag a bit in parts, but the overall experience is worth it mainly because there hasn’t been a quality Pirates film out in quite some time before this one. Shaving off about a half an hour would have made the film more comfortably paced.
Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom may be great to look at, but they don’t keep up with the magnitude of Depp. Every time Sparrow is off-screen, you beg for him to come back because the film does slump to mediocre when he’s not the main focus.
Film Recommendations:Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Peter Pan (2003) Hook
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