My wife and I had to decide what to watch to kill a few hours before the ball dropped on the end of 2013 (or the beginning of 2014, I suppose, depending on your perspective). We decided to go with an old stand by and revisit the Caribbean.


I watched PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003) on 12.31.13. It was, probably, my fifth viewing of the film and first in over five years.

It has now been more than ten years since PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN first hit the screens. The announcement of this movie, based on the Disney ride, was met with understandable trepidation. The odds of Disney producing a good movie out of a amusement park attraction with little to no story seemed long. Johnny Depp was a star, sure, but not to the level that this movie would launch him. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom were attractive and promising young stars, but had never been the attraction in a film to that point.

The script has four people credited between story creators and script writers. Director Gore Verbinski had previously directed a kids movie (MOUSEHUNT), a bomb with major stars (THE MEXICAN), and a surprise horror hit (THE RING). Hardly credits which demanded a major budget film.

So what happened? They managed to turn this movie into a summer blockbuster classic. Say what you will about the sequels, the first movie somehow manages to hit all the right notes. First and foremost, the script is as good as a film like this could ever hope to have. The story concerns stolen gold, a curse, an eccentric pirate (Depp), and a love story (Bloom and Knightley).

The sword fights are fast paced, well edited, and entertaining. They start in a ‘real’ place and devolve into ‘fantasy’, which is what this movie does itself. The tone is carefully set and could have exploded, only real actors like Geoffrey Rush as the villainous Barbossa lend the entire ordeal the proper level of credibility. This first PIRATES is tasked with creating some larger than life characters, and it is impressive how right it gets it all.

The CGI is smart. The pirates skeletal look in the dark works, and the other effects usually are edited quickly to avoid lingering on a clearly manipulated shot. It is amazing that so many of the big budget films from the beginning of the 21st century look better than the ones now. In 2003, they were shooting practically and adding effects, in the modern era, they shoot two actors in front of a green screen and add everything else in later. There is a nice level of authenticity to this film which makes me nostalgic for a time when the studios seemed to care more.

And there is no doubt that Disney knew that the premise meant that the movie had to be right. This isn’t LONE RANGER, another Depp vehicle which Disney assumed was an easy hit because of the cache of the franchise. They work for this one, there is care taken in this movie, and it shows. Consider the first time we see Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. We see him proudly standing in the wind in a close up. We assume he is captaining a major vessel because the trailers and the marketing has showed him to be a great pirate. Instead, we get a long shot showing he is on a tiny little boat which is taking in water. He tries to bail himself out to no avail. He climbs to the peak of the boat and hits the dock just as the boat sinks into the water. He is stopped, bribes a man to keep his name off the docket, then steals more than he bribed off the end of a podium. In less than a minute, we have learned all we need to know about this character in terms of pride, intelligence, and resourcefulness. Johnny Depp is given credit for creating the character of Jack Sparrow. The character is a part of our culture, and has been revered and mocked for a decade now. Depp certainly deserves the credit. Yet, also, the scriptwriters and the filmmakers wrote and provided a wonderful framework within which Depp could work. That sort of symbiotic relationship is evident throughout the film.

PIRATES is not an Oscar film. Thematically it is indifferent. Cinematographically it is nice if not spectacular. This is not made to be anything but a majorly fun summer blockbuster, and on that level it is one of the most successful films in recent history, even if a couple of the logic gaps and payoff moments in the last act are slightly eye-roll inducing.

This is a memorable film which has a legitimate legacy in the annals of the summer blockbuster. Even if that isn’t as sexy as being a Best Picture Winner, it is still a notable achievement in this age of the disposable big-budget film.



Two bonus points here. One for the wonderfully catchy score. The major riff of Klaus Badelt’s main theme is one of the most recognizable bits of the modern movie score. The other bonus point is for the smartly used, and highly effective, CGI.



~ by johnlink00 on January 1, 2014.

7 Responses to “johnlink ranks PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003)”

  1. Agreed on every point. It has flaws, but it is an excellent summer action flick all the same.

  2. Best one 😀

  3. da da dum dum
    da da dum dum
    da da dum dum
    da da da…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: