Sunday, June 21, 2015


(July 2003, U.S.)

Pirate movies, if you can actually specify that as a film genre, are not very popular with me. As a matter of fact, with the exception of this film and an old black and white Errol Flynn movie called CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), I don't own any other pirate movies and I suppose I have the legacy of PETER PAN to blame for that! Before this film, no matter how nasty and adventurous a pirate on the big screen may have been, all I could really see was a bunch of tattooed morons singing and dancing on the deck of a ship shouting, "Yo-ho-ho!" and singing "A Pirate's Life For Me". Add to the fact that as a teenager, there was a Broadway show movie versions of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE to contend with! You see what I mean? How can one take the downright viciousness and evil of the pirate legend if they're constantly flopping about in song and dance?? Further add to the fact that Renny Harlin's CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995) was apparently such an unmitigated disaster that I never even bothered to take an objective look at it. In fact to be perfectly honest, I had no initial interest in seeing PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL were it not for the fact that in the Summer of 2003, it just happened to be our last night in our old New York City apartment and everything was packed up in boxes (including the TV) and we needed something to do. Hence, walk down the street to the neighborhood theater and kill two hours with the latest and hottest summer blockbuster of the moment. Well, yo-ho-ho and behold...I liked it! No...I loved it!

I suppose only a combination of Johnny Depp and the infamous reputation of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones (the one Depp based his character of Captain Jack Sparrow on), would keep me interested in any pirate story, which let's face it, almost never changes. Sea battles, lost treasures, pillaging, sword fighting, pretty damsels in distress...the clich├ęs could go on forever. As an original point of interest, I have to say that Gore Verbinski's film basing itself on a popular Walt Disney theme park attraction is not totally without merit. If nothing else, it's a recognizable and popular name with audiences. As a fantasy swashbuckling film, it has all the basic, required elements I already pointed out, but clearly distinguishes itself with the outrageous humor of Depp's Jack Sparrow, a bumbling pirate captain who doesn't always seem to have a firm grip on what he's doing. Depp is an actor that has always given everything he's got into his fantasy roles, be it Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka or Ed Wood himself, so it's often quite fun and amusing to watch him sink his teeth into whatever he's doing on screen. One can only sense just by looking at his character that he can truly feel the drunkenness and incoherent mannerisms of Keith Richards deep in his soul, and that's clearly what makes the character shine!

In getting back to my own interpretation of screen pirates, it's important to note that the actual curse of the Black Pearl in this film works very effectively in bringing out the dark fear in the presence of the evil pirates, lead by the very gifted actor Geoffrey Rush. We know off the top that the evil pirates are murderous thugs who will stop at nothing to obtain their goals, but it's of particular horror to see that the heart of the curse lies in a tale of the macabre from the moment the pirates are standing under the moonlight and their true physical nature is revealed as nothing short of the undead. Take a look...

Not exactly Disney family film material, is it! However, for someone like me, who's very picky about his family movie material, this dark side of the story works perfectly for me (George A. Romero would be proud!). Like any traditional summer blockbuster, there is high octane adventure, thrilling visual spectacles, and in this particular case good, solid acting from all those involved, including Orlando Bloom (my wife has a serious crush on this guy!) and the always stunning Keira Knightley...

(sorry - couldn't resist throwing a little cleavage into this post!)

Now although it's pretty obvious that the enthusiastic talents and hard, dedicated work of Johnny Depp carries this film to its end, those talents were not enough for me to hold any interest in three more PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies (a fifth one on the way!). I tried to watch the second one, DEAD MAN'S CHEST, when it came out on DVD and barely got past the first thirty minutes of it. By the time the scene came to where a bunch of men were rolling down a hill in a huge human-like ball, I knew I'd had enough! You see, this is the tragedy of a popular and successful summer blockbuster in that it unavoidably opens the door for continued Hollywood franchise greed to no end! Others may be willing to hand over their time and money to more of the same recycled contents every couple of years, but I'm not. Still, I thank Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp for at least restoring my possible faith in the pirate film; for at least one film, anyway.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Governor Swann: "Elizabeth, how's it coming?"
Elizabeth (trying to get into a corset): "It's difficult to say."
Governor Swann: "I'm told it's the latest fashion in London."
Elizabeth: "Well, women in London must have learned not to breathe!"

1 comment:

  1. This is a terrific film, all the others are inadequate attempts to catch lightning in a bottle again. The sword duel in the blacksmith shop between Bloom and Depp was excellent.