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

Shiver me, timbers! The pirate movie is back!

Throughout recent history of the silver screen putting a pirate in a major blockbuster almost meant certain doom at the box office. Hollywood has tried desperately to reinvent or resurrect the genre that made Douglas Fairbanks and Burt Lancaster household names way back when. With so many huge pirate flops like Roman Polanski’s “Pirates”, Renny Harlin’s “Cutthroat Island” and even last year’s “Treasure Planet” that the genre itself seems to have a curse.

Now Disney has decided to create a major Hollywood blockbuster out of its beloved theme-park ride, “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Hiring super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, grizzled character actors Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush as well as red-hot Gen-X stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, Disney has the makings of breaking the curse.

“Pirates” tells the tale of a cursed ship encased in black known as the Black Pearl. When the Black Pearl emerges and wages war on a small port in the Caribbean, our story begins.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has just come to the port in search of a new crew and ship. Sparrow flees the port’s guard when they discover he is a pirate. During the pursuit, Jack runs into Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the port’s blacksmith who helps in Jack’s capture.

When the Pearl eventually arrives and the plundering and pillaging begin, the crew of the Black Pearl acquires Turner’s beloved and the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Bend it like Beckham’s Keira Knightley) who is taken before Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). The Pearl sails off with young Miss Swann.

Will has to swallow his pride and spring Jack Sparrow from prison to track down the Pearl and rescue Elizabeth. Can these unlikely of heroes takedown a ship full of ghastly pirates? What is the full story of the Black Pearl’s curse? And who the hell is Jack Sparrow anyhow?

The unsung hero in this grand return to the pirate genre is the film’s director, Gore Verbinski, who not only created the Budweiser Frogs but also directed last year’s shock surprise, “The Ring”. Verbinski’s direction and sculpture here has all the elements we remember from pirate tales of old. I really loved how he was able to meld all the elements and the allure of high seas adventure in his first 40 minutes. He has all the right elements and a flawless execution.

Verbinski’s beginning is brilliant but what is the film’s biggest problem is its length. The film’s center is entirely too long. There is a huge hodge-podge of high adventure but none of it really propels the plot. I almost felt like the film lost its edge through the center. However in the final third, the film really becomes special again.

I have always praised Johnny Depp and his constant chameleon ability to transform himself into any role. Depp is the biggest jewel in this treasure chest. His Jack Sparrow is very memorable and a blast to watch.

He does play Jack with a sort of drunken drawl which makes him vulnerable but crafty. You just never know what to expect from him is he a scallywag or a hero. Depp is such an unsung actor and it is the little things in a performance that make him so great to watch.

Bloom and Knightley are solid as the “star-crossed” lovers. They are both great emerging talents but this role doesn’t really push either actor.

I also have to note that another great thing about this film is its humor. The film has so many great humorous moments that would have been utterly silly anywhere else. But here it is all just part of the fun. Both the pirates and the redcoats each have their own pairs of comic relief who steal key scenes away from eye-candy actors like Knightley and Bloom.

“Pirates” is a delightful movie even if it is probably about 15-20 minutes to long. I really did enjoy this journey.

(4.25 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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