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Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (Mark's Take)

01/08/2004. Contributed by Mark R Leeper

Buy Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl in the USA - or Buy Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl in the UK

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This is almost certainly the most exciting pirate film ever made. This fast-paced confection of an adventure has wit, a good story and imaginative visuals. Johnny Depp gives what is probably his best performance as a grubby yet stylish pirate captain.

I had some cognitive dissonance over this film. I first saw this film announced somewhere. Is this what we are getting these days? A movie based on a theme park ride?

I filed it in my "must miss" list. Then I saw a trailer that looked really good. "That's PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN? Maybe I am interested after all." And it turned out to be tremendous fun.

Pirates of the Caribbean Movie Review

I don't think anybody has ever done a full-blown pirate fantasy on film. I mean one with stolen treasure hidden in caves and ghosts and curses and sword fights and parrots on the shoulder and walking the plank and marooned men and the British Navy with its cannons blazing.

Everything is here but peg legs, hooks, and eye patches. (How did they miss those?) It takes more than putting a sword in Errol Flynn's hand to do all that a pirate film can be. Now there is one, and it's a hoot, regardless of the title.

The film opens with Elizabeth Swann, the young daughter of the Governor of Port Royal, rescuing William Turner, a boy about her own age, from pirate-infested waters.

The medallion around his neck seems to label him as a pirate, so she takes it for safekeeping before other people can see it. Eight years later Elizabeth (now played by Keira Knightley of BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM) has grown to be a young woman who is in love with William Turner (Orlando Bloom), now a swordsmith.

Her father has his own ideas for her future, wanting her to marry a young commodore. Complicating matters is the arrival in Port Royal of grungy rogue Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), thief and pirate.

Sparrow saves Elizabeth's life, but is promptly arrested by her father's men. As he rots in prison a legendary pirate ship, the Black Pearl, sails into harbor and attacks Port Royal.

Raiding pirates kidnap Elizabeth. Turner and Sparrow form an uneasy alliance to pursue raiders and rescue her.

The writing of PIRATES is genuinely funny and certainly literate. Nearly everything about the film is exaggerated about ten percent, which is right about what it should be. The real pirates were amazingly flamboyant figures, in some cases literally. Blackbeard used to put lighted tapers in his hair and beard to look more demonic to his enemies.

Real pirates were bizarre and scary people, and Depp is just about as grotesque playing Sparrow as the audience would accept. He may be the first pirate on the screen who really accurately looks the part.

Depp is deliciously hammy, but just about matching him is Geoffrey Rush as the evil pirate Barbossa. The two have a terrific time chewing up the scenery together and the audience has just as much fun.

A little subdued and under-used is Jonathan Pryce as the Governor of Port Royal. A host of slimy and depraved looking actors play the pirates.

I am not generally fond of films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer--films like GONE IN 60 SECONDS and ARMAGEDDON. But of late he seems to have discovered how to mix some quality in with the noise and the action.

This film has noise and action and explosions, but it also has good characters and it beautifully visualizes the early 19th century Caribbean or at least the imagination's view of that time and place. Gore Verblinksi, who directed MOUSE HUNT and THE RING, directs here and gets a lot of movie on that screen.

Some of the look is reminiscent of pirate paintings by classic illustrator N. C. Wyeth. The score it by Klaus Bedelt, but the score is "produced" by Hans Zimmer. I don't know what that means, but the music sounds a lot like GLADIATOR. Zimmer scored GLADIATOR with additional music by Bedelt.

This film with so commercial a title may well turn out to be the best action film of a summer filled with an excess of action films.

I rate it an 8 on the 0 to 10 scale and a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale. Yo-ho.

Mark R Leeper

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