On Second Thought: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”

Adaptations come from a multitude of places. Some more conventional than others, and some based on more obscure material. Then there are those other sources where one wouldn’t think any kind of film would be possible. Who would think an amusement park ride could spawn such a well made film, let alone a film franchise?

The Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures film “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, is a high sweeping adventure that has action, charm and lots of humor that still comes through even today!

This action adventure stars Johnny Depp (upcoming “Yoga Hosers”, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”), Geoffrey Rush (“Gods of Egypt”, “Holding the Man”), Orlando Bloom (“Digging for Fire”, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”), Keira Knightley (upcoming “Collateral Beauty”, “Everest”), Jack Davenport (“Life in Squares”, “Kingsman: The Secret Service”), Kevin R. McNally (“Power Monkeys”, “Turn: Washington’s Spies”), Zoe Saldana (upcoming “Star Trek Beyond”, “Nina”), and Jonathan Pryce (“Game of Thrones”, “The Ghost and the Whale”).

The film is directed by Gore Verbinski (“The Lone Ranger”, “Rango”) and written by Ted Elliott (“The Lone Ranger”, “Captain Jokes Parrot’s Adventures”) and Terry Rossio (“The Lone Ranger”, “Captain Jokes Parrot’s Adventures”).

The film originally opened on July 9, 2003. It would go on to be nominated for five Academy Awards; one Golden Globe award; and one Screen Actors Guild Award, winning one among many other nominations and wins.

I’ve been missing out! No, it’s not my first time seeing this film, clearly, but it feels like it. I’d pretty much forgotten everything about this film, and regret not having taken more time to revisit it. I’m definitely reminded why I absolutely loved this film and all the actors in it. So much is just so memorable. It’s why I’m really glad this particular week was forced on me, and why I’ll no doubt regret spending so much time with this franchise. Yes, this franchise. All the films. I’ll be spending the next four days, including this one, writing about a series I’ve largely been against for some time. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s changed. One of these films has a birthday coming up, and I thought that now was a good time to do this. It’ll also save me from having to do it next year when the long awaited sequel comes out. Hopefully that’s better than what I remember the fourth film being. However, I won’t be holding my breath. Anyway. As we’ve gathered here to talk about the original, and so far in this rewatch, best film, let’s get right to what makes it so good!

I have to commend Elliott and Roosio for an excellent story! That’s right, story. While the contents of their many pages, the humor, action, and characters, are what make this film and executed well, it’s the overall story that makes this film the best, and a great start. It’s actually why, later as the other films came out, I wished this film had just been a one and done film. Since it wasn’t, I’ll just take the win of it being the better of the four films. It’s simple. That’s it. Simple, but not too basic or too stupid. Sometimes, even with action films, you don’t need overly complex films. This film doesn’t carry that, and gives you a film that can then focus on the action and various plot points. You get lost in this whole thing! It’s where I discovered how much fun this film was, and was oddly excited to get to the sequel.

Simple story, but not so simple or boring characters. The many character who populated this film were brought to life by exceptional performances. After experiencing everything that they went through, which makes up who they are and who they become, I can’t say I have a favorite. I pretty much love them all! There’s something about each that just makes them quirky enough, unique, and overall memorable. Mind you, some more than others, but that’s okay. Davenport did fine with who he was playing, so nothing lost.

Rush, Depp, Knightley, and Bloom, you know the principal cast, are by far the standouts! Each one adding another piece to the overall puzzle, and making the film that much better.

Depp’s character, I’m sure some would say, is iconic. I’d forgotten how silly he was, but not to the point where it’s tiresome, at least, not yet. He definitely brought a lot of the humor or made for some comedic bits possible. Through his mannerisms, personality, or just things he’d say and do, you got so many layers, and were able to laugh. His character also carried some charisma with him, and really allowed for him to show he has no loyalties to anyone but himself. Certainly makes for an odd character to like.

Knightley, showed that she’s far more than just this traditional young woman. Sure she’s wanting and willing to conform to traditional values, to what’s expected of her, but she’s not completely helpless. We hear a lot of talk about needing female characters that are much more whole than they typically are, and while this is true, it’s surprising to see that Knightley’s character comes close to fitting that. It’s also just fun to see Knightley kick some ass! She had some incredible moments of defending herself, of taking on the semi-bad guys, like with the other male characters, but she wasn’t completely in the clear. She still needed help from time to time. I’d say that even though the story and Bloom, Pryce, and Davenport said she needed saving, she really didn’t. She did pretty well on her own.

Rush is all kinds of amazing. I’ve sadly seen little he’s done, but right away, when his character came on screen, I was just amazed and in awe. His character’s charisma, leadership, and just his way of being, like with Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, just make the film and adventures so much more exciting.

Bloom, oh, Bloom. His character’s likability stems mostly from the journey he takes. You have no trouble liking him, and being amazed at his abilities with a sword, but he only comes to life once he’s saving Knightley. This certainly helps, because when you first meet him, he doesn’t have much that says he’s interesting. In the end, it’s this journey and how much we learn about him, that makes him a perfect character in this film.

If I had time, I’d go on about all the other supporting characters. Mainly the two pirate crews. Each one had its share of quirky and memorable characters. The sidekick (Lucy and Ethel-esque) comedy pirate duo were just that, but somehow grew on you enough. McNally’s character, Saldana’s a bit, and even the damn mischief making, but oh so lovable and loyal, monkey! So many of these characters were perfect, and brought not just a kind of authenticity to this film, but showed loyalty and teamwork at its finest. More or less.

Seeing as this film deals with a cursed pirate crew, you’d better believe that various special and visual effects were used. I’m sure there were other elements of this film that utilized this, but they didn’t stand out as much. What I’m talking about are the skeletal looks that Rush’s Barbossa and his crew take on, per the curse. I was amazed! Maybe not to the level I was back in 2003, but surprised enough that all I wanted to do was stare at the BIG reveal. The detail of Rush and all the other characters as Knightley discovers the truth and kind of runs around in a frenzy, was incredible! It also led to a phenomenal sequence, funny too. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has once again proven itself! While I wasn’t creeped out, I could certainly see some younger viewers being so. The fact that these effects can hold up 13 years later is what had me enjoying this film all the more. Somehow I was not only able to be wowed by the look, but also entertained by it. I never left the adventure.

Visual effects bring one big aspect of this film to life, but if it weren’t for all the magnificent sets, costumes, hair and makeup, etc. then this film wouldn’t have succeeded like it did. From the first shot you get of a young Elizabeth Swann and the ship she’s sailing on, you have no trouble getting immersed in this world. You’re THERE! And you’re only pulled in more and more. I loved all of it! The scope for everything was mind blowing! I definitely think that if a film can still wow me with this big and multifaceted aspects of a world and story, then it’s one that’ll no doubt stand for many more years to come. When I think about all of these aspects, I can’t pick one I liked more than the other, including the visual effects. They all were amazing and worked the way elements in a film should. Together.

I seriously forgot about this one. The score! So many great themes! I’d forgotten how much of this score there is to like and how it really shaped the tone and feel of this film on all levels. At some point I was even humming along to it, and it did make me more involved, more excited, and I think I got into the film a lot more because of this. Not only, in so many ways, can I identify the iconic “Pirates” theme, but I can see how well the composer knows his stuff. He knew precisely what this film need, all the way down to instruments, and it payed off. If I keep going on about this score for much longer, I’m going to be obsessed with wanting to listen to it. Mind you, that wouldn’t be such a terrible thing.

This is an adventure film, but also one full of incredible and fun action, so we have to talk about it. The overall action, and various fight sequences, worked because of the creative stunt and fight choreographers. The execution just worked! I don’t know if using the word epic, is the best thing to discovers the various sequences, but to me, it’s like the next best thing. These sequences were huge! You could see the scope and just wonder how much thought really had to be put into them. So many moving parts. In the end you were certainly treated to many incredible spectacles, that were captured pretty well by the cinematographer. These two aspects certainly kept a specific type of momentum going throughout. I never tired of any of the action, and could appreciate how it moved the plot along, and showcased so much design, all in an attempt at bringing this world to life! Plus, which is surprising a bit, which I just noticed I haven’t mentioned a lot, this allowed form some humor and comedic bits, from various characters to come through. Certainly gave a fresh aspect for this film.

Sometimes you love an adaptation, or you don’t. Sometimes you’re not too sure and it takes many viewings. Other times, you’re just astounded at what was able to be done. When you get the right creative team involved, anything is truly possible, even if you spend hours trying to think on how, but never come to something. It’s why they get paid the big bucks and you’re just the consumer. In the best cases, these successful films will live on to show those who follow how to make an exceptional film that’s also fun and memorable. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed.

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