Sep 21, 2009 (Updated Sep 24, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Incredible Special Effects, action, adventure and first rate acting.

Cons:None to speak's over the top, and that is no sin.

The Bottom Line:

This will be an enduring classic, and just the thing to but the wind in the sails of the Pirate Genre.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Directed by Gore Verbinski

Jack Sparrow: [after Will draws his sword] Put it away, son. It's not worth you getting beat again.
Will Turner: You didn't beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I'd kill you.
Jack Sparrow: That's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me...
In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19) I am completing a set long overdue.  Pirates of the Caribbean are an American institution.  From the early days of our colonial founding, the Pirates were a fact of economic life.  Their adventures thrilled us first in books (Treasure Island) and later in other media (Captain Blood, The Black Swan).  They reached their height in the days of Errol Flynn.  Disney even created a theme ride for Disney Land and that, in theory, was the foundation of this movie.

There is a mystery at the heart of the Curse of the Black Pearl; it is well hidden amongst the swashbuckling and daring do.  And it has drawn many groups together in a disparate web.  Miss Elisabeth Swann, daughter of the newly appointed governor of Jamaica is a child of nine when she sees firsthand what pirates can do.  Her sharp eyes spotted Will Turner, a boy of similar age on a floating piece of wreckage.  Due to the gold coin around his neck, she presumed him a pirate, and hid the fact.  I mean, what is the point of rescuing someone if they are just going to kill him?  She hid the coin, and her suspicions, until both were grown.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has business with the Black Pearl; he is her rightful captain.  Of course, he was mutinied against and now must plot and scheme to get her back, one man against a bloodthirsty crew.

And the crew of the Black Pearl, under the captaincy of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are on a mission as well; they travel under a curse, and it is one that they can never lift, not without the things they squandered by killing Bootstrap Bill Turner; the last gold coin, and the blood of the pirate who owned it.  That is the core of the movie.

Of course, this is almost hidden under the swordfights, daring rescues, callus captures, cunning if ineffective escapes, jailbreak, and flights to cursed islands.

It was interesting reading some of the reviews that came out when the movie was brand new; it was cursed, they said, it was doomed.  It had the ‘twin albatrosses of Pulanski's Pirates, and Harlin's Cutthroat Island lashed to port and starboard.'  It was ‘weighted down with too much fighting and too many special effects.'  I love looking at it now, and laughing.  Because it works.  The whole franchise, taken as a piece, works.  It has made money hand over fist.  But the first is undoubtedly, to date, the best.  It has a special kind of magic.

And of course, the core of that is Captain Jack Sparrow.  I can only imagine the meeting where Johnny Depp walked in and announced, "I am going to do this pirate captain like a gay Keith Richards!"  But it works.  It works in a way that the straight arrow square jawed heroism of Errol Flynn (who, incidentally, was gay) could not.  We are too jaded to believe in heroes like that anymore.  But Jack's character catches us off guard, and with his kohl lined eyes and treasure strewn dreadlocks, directs us away from a very important truth.  He is a hero.  He keeps his word.  In the whole of the series, he is the only one who has not betrayed anyone.

Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly serve the role of the romantic interests, the stalwart hero, and the damsel in distress.  In point of fact, pirates didn't need the likes of Elizabeth Swann and Maureen O'Hare for romance; many were married to each other.  In fact, the word Matey comes from the French term, Matelot.  Matelotage was a form of marriage among the Brethren.  A matelot was a partner in war and work, a man's legal heir, and the person who spoke for him when he could not speak for himself.  It was important, because infidelity bred unrest among a crew full of lethal cutthroats.  So, there is a bit of romance on the high seas they don't tell you about.

As for the rest, the crews, Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) as Jack's first mate, and Pintel (Lee Arenberg) and Ragetti (Mackenzie Crook) as the go-to henchmen of Barbossa are representative of the entire ensemble.  The film was nominated for an Oscar on the strength of the makeup work, and it deserved it, especially for the combat dentistry of Captain's Sparrow and Barbossa.  The costumes were horrible filthy rags, and everyone looked liked the smelled.  It was perfect.

Combine that with wonderful sets and marvelous locations, and the whole spectacle was larger than life.  Add in the magic of Disney's cutting edge special effects, and a budget large enough to overuse them, and you have something unforgettable.  Mix it with humor and adventure and first rate acting, and all the best bits stolen from every pirate movie ever made, and you have a real winner.

"Now, bring me that horizon!"  Captain Jack Sparrow.

AHOY, MATEYS!  High adventure on the High Seas
Brethren: Raised by Wolves.
Matelots: Raised by Wolves 
Treasure: Raised by Wolves
Wolves: Raised by Wolves

Cutthroat Island
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
The Black Swan 
The Wake of the Red Witch 
The Sea Hawk

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