Movie Reviews

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 9 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

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Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow
Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann
Jack Davenport as Norrington
Jonathan Pryce as Governor Weatherby Swann
Lee Arenberg as Pintel
Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti
Giles New as Murtogg
Angus Barnett as Mullroy
David Bailie as Cotton
Isaac C. Singleton Jr. as Bo'sun
Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs
Treva Etienne as Koehler
Zoe Saldana as Anamaria

With action, adventure, romance, humor, horror, and a monkey, Pirates of the Caribbean is the perfect summer popcorn flick. The special effects, Johnny Depp, and Keira Knightley make this a film well worth seeing on the big screen.

This film is loosely based on the ride at the Disney theme parks.

Elizabeth Swann is the daughter of an English governor on an island in the Caribbean. Though prim and proper, she has a fascination for the sea and pirates. That partly explains her attraction for a young blacksmith by the name of Will Turner. Elizabeth and her father rescued the young lad, who she believed was a pirate, from a shipwreck many years before. Though she continues to be infatuated with Turner, sheís betrothed to one of the commanders in the Royal Navy.

Things turn ugly, though, when a gang of evil pirates arrives in town on the Black Pearl. They destroy the town, attack the fort, and kidnap Elizabeth. It turns out that the pirates have been cursed and they believe Elizabeth holds the key to removing it. Whenever the moonlight shines on them, they are revealed to be undead skeletons. Never able to feel anything, they are doomed to haunt the high seas forever unless they reverse the curse.

Will Turner is determined to rescue Elizabeth, but he canít raise help from the Navy and he doesnít know where to find the pirates. His only hope lies with a mysterious pirate of questionable competency by the name of Jack Sparrow. Sparrow knows a bit more about the Black Pearl and the pirates than he lets on. Will gets him to agree to lead him to Elizabeth and the two set off on their suicide rescue mission. But can Will really trust a pirate? And what will he learn about his own past?

Pirates of the Caribbean is rated PG-13 for action/adventure violence.

What Worked:
This movie had one major thing going against it Ė it was based on a Disney theme park ride. That alone implied a lot of things such as it was a 2-hour commercial for Disneyland, it was a blatant marketing attempt, and that it was going to be of questionable quality. However, it also had a lot of good things going for it. It had Jerry Bruckheimer producing. It had Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom at the helm. Gore Verbinski (The Ring, The Mexican) was directing. Industrial Light & Magic was doing the effects. Fortunately, all this good outweighed the bad and the final result is an immensely entertaining popcorn flick.

Pirates of the Caribbean is the perfect summer popcorn movie. It has action, adventure, romance, horror, swordfights, big special effects, humor, and a monkey. You canít go wrong. The plot and characters are very similar to Star Wars. Jack Sparrow is very much like Han Solo. Will Turner is similar to Luke Skywalker. Elizabeth Swan is similar to Princess Leia (which is ironic, because Keira Knightley played the Queenís handmaiden in Star Wars Ė Episode I). The rogue and the young boy team up to save the damsel in distress (who is actually pretty tough) from a menacing evil. There are swordfights, battles between ships, and even a bit of magic. If you liked Star Wars, youíll like Pirates of the Caribbean. The plot also offers up a few clever twists and turns at the end that provide some excitement.

The cast in this is perfect. I think Johnny Depp is one of the best actors working today. You never recognize him from one role to the next and you totally believe him no matter who heís playing. This time heís Jack Sparrow, the pirate version of Keith Richards. The funny thing about Sparrow is that heís mostly talk. He looks gallant and poses dramatically while his ship is sinking from under him. He brags defiantly when heís backed into a corner with no hope of escape. While making a big entrance, exit, or escape, heíll fall flat on his backside. It seems an unusual combination of luck and skill keeps him alive. Depp really brings him to life and makes him one of the more memorable characters at the movies this year.

Supporting Depp is Orlando Bloom as Will Turner. I like Orlando Bloom, but to be quite honest his character could have been played by anyone. Still, Bloom looks good while swashbuckling and seems to have some chemistry with Elizabeth. Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Swan. Sheís beautiful, funny, and tough. Sheís also a clone of Natalie Portman (see the Star Wars mention above). This movie is really going to put her in the public eye and make her a star. Whether sheís telling off Jack Sparrow or defying Barbossa, she more than holds her own in this impressive cast. Geoffrey Rush plays the cursed Captain Barbossa. He seems to be having a blast playing the pirate captain. He yells out all the traditional pirate phrases with gusto and is later enhanced by the skeleton CG effects. Itís a great combination and Rush makes it all convincing and entertaining. A colorful supporting cast rounds things out.

The effects by ILM are amazing. Itís some of their better work in a while. As the pirates move in and out of moonlight, they are revealed to be skeletons covered in bits of flesh and tattered clothes. Itís impressive in brief glimpses and becomes even more so when they get into an all out battle at the end of the film. They run in and out of the moonlight flashing back and forth between flesh and skeleton. Itís not only visually amazing but quite a technical achievement as well. There are also some really cool underwater shots where the skeleton pirates are seen walking on the seafloor. It was creepy and beautiful at the same time.

The action is also good with some great swordfights between the various characters. If you wanted your buckle swashed, this will do it. Thereís also a stunning cannon fight between two ships that will blow you away. (Pun intended.) All of this is supported by an impressive musical score by Klaus Badelt. I kept thinking it sounded like Hans Zimmerís work, then noticed that he was listed as one of the music producers. I guess that explains the similar sound.

As for similarities with the Disney ride, there are very few. Youíll see a couple of moments here and there that youíll recognize if youíve been on it. Youíll see prisoners trying to get keys from a dog. Youíll see a guy sleeping with pigs. Youíll see pirates chasing women around the town. However, thatís about the extent of the similarities with the ride and thatís probably a good thing.

On a side note, be sure to stay through the very end of the credits to see the ultimate fate of one of the characters. At the screening I was at, the theater practically cleared and only a few people saw it.

What Didnít Work:
Very little in this movie didnít work. The cast was good, the effects great, and the action exciting. Oddly, though, the movie doesnít start out with the Disney logo. It was almost as if they were trying to distance the Disney name from this PG-13 movie. I didnít think that was necessary, but oh, well. Itís not like it was rated ďArrrr!Ē (OK, sorry for that.) Itís also a tad long at over 2 hours, but I didnít mind that so much. I got me timbers shivered more for me buck. I will say, though, that I donít think the TV commercials have done this film justice. Itís a lot funnier and creepier than they let on.

The Bottom Line:
Both kids and adults will thoroughly enjoy this movie. Itís a lot of fun and well worth checking out. I highly recommend checking it out on the big screen.

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