• Guy Jeffries

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Review


Director: Gore Verbinski

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook, Lee Arenberg, Kevin McNally, Zoe Saldana, Martin Klebba, David Bailie, Giles New, Angus Barnett.

We have to take a look at very first voyage before we venture off to Salazar's Revenge, to where it all began with Captain Jack Sparrow back in 2003. But it didn't all start back then. No. And for those of you, like myself, that we're fortunate or spoilt enough to visit Disney World you might know where I'm coming from.

It was one of my favourite, if not the favourite ride out of the attractions at the Disney resorts The dark ride was first opened at Disneyland in 1967 and was the last one constructed under the watchful eye of Walt Disney himself, who died 3 months before the ride opened. A dark ride by definition, is a ride that takes passengers on a guided, indoor tour by a carriage of some themed sort, usually a train of seats and in this example, it was a boat with a small chance of getting wet.

I remember boarding and as the boat departs for a pitch black tunnel, there was a skull and crossbones warning you and then chuckling to himself. Now, what follows is a guided tour throughout the pirate kingdom of coves, buried treasure, ports and taverns telling the story of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Though it must have been updated and twinned with the movies. So, it's not based on a maritime novel or a video game, not even a comic but a theme park ride.

The film really captures the essence of the attraction, using some familiar characteristics and elements such as the the rum, the boisterous, drunkard-riddled taverns, the pirate songs and including the stubborn dog with the bunch of keys. My voyage there was more than twenty years ago so I can only imagine how they have upgraded or replaced the, still good, animatronics and purposefully grubby sets.

According to writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, they had a script drafted up since the early 90's which ended up in the hands of Spielberg, who had Steve Martin, Bill Murray or the late Robin Williams to play Capt. Jack Sparrow. Fortunately, Disney halted any projects, possibly because of the disappointing result of Hook.

It's not a complicated story, but it's not a simple one either, with a crew of cursed undead pirates lead by a Capt. Barbossa, claiming the sea, searching for their damned treasure in hope of lifting their curse. But what an amazing curse it is, to be consumed by greed never being able to quench their thirst or cure their hunger and lust. It appears to be a big ocean out there but a relative small world as characters inadvertently cross paths throughout the franchise leaving clues to each other's history.

It's opens with the a brief but integral piece of Will Turner's origins. The now orphaned pirate boy rescued and raised on Port Royal who remembers very little from where he came from, unknowing he is a small yet important part to Capt. Barbossa's quest and just by some coincidental, unfortunate events all the key characters converge and thus starts the grand adventure.

Right from Captain Jack Sparrow's entrance, most of us are immediately enchanted by his quirks, mannerisms and facial expressions. His cheeky yet cunning, mischievous behaviour has been said to be influenced by the rocking greats such as his good friend Keith Richards. He's quite possibly, the best pirate you've ever seen. De Niro was originally offered the part before Depp and he gladly declined due to having doubts about the success of such a film. He wasn't the only one with doubts, with the studio planning a straight to DVD release with the title as just Pirates of the Caribbean having the mindset of this being a one off, though the later anticipated box office success added the Curse of the Black Pearl to the official title.

Who didn't want to be Captain Jack Sparrow after watching this. His attitude and savvy was infectious, spawning thousands of pirate cosplayers and especially Captain Jack Sparrow impersonators. Depp himself has been reported to carry the costume around with him wherever he travels, donning the attire and visiting children's hospitals when able to take the opportunity. One brilliant and true story is of a girl who wrote to Depp asking for piracy advice on how to commit a mutiny against her teachers. Depp surprised both pupils and teachers by turning up at the school, in full Capt. Jack Sparrow attire and character advising the class to not do such a thing.

I think we can all agree, no one else can play or even be seen to play Capt. Jack Sparrow, many might think the part was written specifically for him. But no, it was actually written with Hugh Jackman in mind and the Disney's studio was actually hopeful for Matthew McConaughey to take it. It's is a strong sign of great character and good acting if you cannot envision anyone else to play the part. Rush fits the bill as Barbossa, the curse pirate captain who is well versed in pillaging and plundering, and has a history with Jack. But what of the rest of the cast? There was plenty of desirables for both Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann including Jude Law, Tobey Maguire, Christian Bale, Jessica Alba and Jaimie Alexander though Bloom won the part over Heath Ledger due to him being considered a more bankable star off the back of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can actually see Ledger making a great pirate. Knightly is sadly the weakest of the crew and I could imagine others playing Swann. There's just something about her that doesn't fit right and her screen presence can actually be annoying.

The production is of an epic scale, filming on location whenever possible, though some sets doubled for the Caribbean. The costumes and props are incredibly realistic, especially using real ships like the Lady Washington that doubles as the H.M.S. Interceptor with The Black Pearl being like the Millennium Falcon of the Caribbean. In fact, if you think about it, there's quite a lot of similarities to Star Wars series regarding the smuggling/piracy. It has to be noted, this was and still is one of the best produced films of all time, but that shouldn't be too surprising with Jerry Bruckheimer at the ship's wheel.

Klaus Badelt composes one of my favourite all-time scores and admittedly, I went through a spate of listening to this soundtrack constantly on repeat. It's themes embody adventure, excitement, horror and comedy superbly put together that almost creates a story on its own. Though I can't stop thinking Hans Zimmer did more than produce this score. Badelt being one of Zimmer's apprentices having worked under him on films like Gladiator and Pearl Harbour.

The film had witty and clever script writing which was made all the more entertaining by allowing the cast the freedom to improvise should the opportune moment arise. Depp's "Savvy" catchphrase and Bloom's impersonation being only two examples out of many that wasn't scripted. It's slapstick, fast action is incredibly refreshing and exciting, especially the swordsmanship, which reminded me very much of The Princess Bride but much more creative and adventurous taking much advantage of their environment. It displays some of the best choreographed fencing in movie history.

I remember watching this multiple times at the cinema and many more times when it was released on DVD. Your scallywags will love it. It is both, madness and brilliant, bringing pirates and swashbuckling adventures back into fashion, becoming the definitive pirate movie ever made.

Here's the warning speech the Skull and Crossbones gives as you enter the ride.

"Psst! Avast there! It be too late to alter course, mateys. And there be plundering pirates lurkin' in ev'ry cove, waitin' to board. Sit closer together and keep your ruddy hands in board. That be the best way to repel boarders. And mark well me words, mateys: Dead men tell no tales! Ye come seekin' adventure with salty old pirates, eh? Sure you've come to the proper place. But keep a weather eye open, mates, and hold on tight. With both hands, if you please. Thar be squalls ahead, and Davy Jones waiting for them what don't obey."

Running Time: 9

The Cast: 8

Performance: 8

Direction: 9

Story: 9

Script: 10

Creativity: 10

Soundtrack: 10

Job Description: 10

The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for becoming the definitive Pirates movie of all time.

Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Already do!

93% 9/10

Also check out:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge/Dead Men Tell No Tales

#GoreVerbinski #JohnnyDepp #GeoffreyRush #OrlandoBloom #KeiraKnightley #JackDavenport #JonathanPryce #MackenzieCrook #LeeArenberg #KevinMcNally #ZoeSaldana #MartinKlebba #DavidBailie #GilesNew #AngusBarnett #KlausBadelt