Pirates of The Caribbean (2003) Review

Curse of the Black Pearl

(d: Gore Verbinski ; s: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley)

By far the best Disney-Ride-Turned-Into-A-Movie movie yet! Granted, its competition in this vein so far consists of The Country Bears -- so take that for what it's worth. Okay, seriously, though - it's been awhile since Hollywood successfully sailed the proverbial Seven Seas and provided us with swashes to buckle, fair maidens to rescue, and skeletal pirates walking along the ocean floor.

If there is one successful blockbuster that comes out of Hollywood this summer, Pirates deserves the crown. You've got excellent acting (from Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, at least), non-stop action (who doesn't enjoy watching swordfights - really!?), and a romance that lacks even the most basic of chemistry. Okay - two out of three ain't bad, as the old song goes, but it's the two that this movie gets right that make it worth seeing!

The plot is pretty basic - a ship full of cursed pirates roams the Caribbean seas, seeking out the last remnants of an ancient Mayan treasure that they stole. The last piece of this treasure happens to be in the hands of a governor's daughter (governor played by Jonathan Pryce, daughter by the beautiful Keira Knightley), taken from a boy she helped rescue years ago while on patrol with her father (what the governor and his daughter were doing on board a routine sea patrol is beyond me!). The boy grows into a blacksmith apprentice (Orlando Bloom), the girl grows into the antithesis of British aristocracy (the scenes with her struggling with her corset are some of the funniest moments in the film). Eventually, the pirates learn the location of the last item, and of course kidnap the governor's daughter. Madness, ship battles, and swashbuckling ensues.

Most of the swashbuckling is done by Captain Jack Sparrow (played more than ably by a Keith Richards-imitating Johnny Depp), a failed pirate out for revenge against his mutinous crew. If there is any one reason to see this movie, it's for Cap'n Jack - the mannerisms, barely-intelligible accent, and essential spirit of his character is just flat-out fun. Johnny Depp at his best (think Dean Corso from The Ninth Gate with a little more energy and dreads), he simply MAKES this movie enjoyable. You can't take your eyes off him when he's on camera, and when he's not, you're wishing that he was!

Geoffrey Rush is the second in line to take over this movie, as the thoroughly piratey Captain Barbossa. Every word he sneers comes across as a covert threat; he is what we all think of when we consider the description of a pirate -- smart, lethal, and downright scroungy. His best line, when referring to the "Pirate's Code" sums up his character to a T: "They're really more like guidelines?"

Unfortunately, while Sparrow and Barbossa set up the movie for greatness, it's consistently drug back down the sheer lack of chemistry between the aforementioned blacksmith, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and the governor's daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). There's actually more chemistry between Ms. Swann and any other character in the movie, including Barbossa! Bloom looks just indescribably strange with a period(?) moustache and peach fuzz. His character, while interesting, just played flat for me. His bluster and devotion to Swann just didn't convince me, until the very end of the movie. By that time, though, it was too late - I wasn't interested in them a single bit.

The CGI in this movie is fun, if a bit overdone. The transition from human-looking pirates to the shriveling, decomposing skeleton pirates is just amazing, but after awhile you just want to see one or the other. Similarly with the swordfights; while I love a good swordfight as much as the next guy, there needs to be a little more variety for me to really be satisfied. Especially near the end, you get a "been here, done that" feeling during the ultimate showdown.

All in all, this is quite simply the best summer blockbuster out there right now. It's fun, it's light, and although long (143 minutes!), it's worth the ride.