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Well, the time has come to review one of the most beloved live-action Disney films of all time. This is a film that revolutionized live-action Disney films as we know it. This is a film that revolutionized its genre as we know it. You can probably argue that this film revolutionized cinema as we know it.
Lady lovers of Johnny Depp, keep your hearts in check for we are about to embark on a ride through another pirate-related film. Sit back and enjoy the review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”.
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film opens up to a scene aboard a ship belonging to the British Navy that’s currently sailing through Port Royal, Jamaica. The voyage is relatively uneventful, that is, until they come upon a burning shipwreck.
The sailors aboard the ship assume that this be the work of pirates.
As they approach the wreckage, they also rescue a young boy who’s found floating in the ocean aboard a raft, clearly a survivor of this supposed pirate attack.
Cut to 8 years later. We’re introduced to Elizabeth Swann, a young woman played by Keira Knightley. She was one of the people aboard the ship eight years ago. But of course, she was a little girl back then.
She’s the daughter of a governor and has to deal with “rich people” problems including, but not limited to, wearing tight corsets. The poor dear!Why is she wearing a tight corset on this particular day? Well, she’s attending a ceremony in which an acquaintance of hers is to be promoted, so naturally she has to look her best…even if it means dealing with a few minor annoyances.
This acquaintance, Lieutenant Norrington, played by Jack Davenport, is being promoted to the title of Commodore. And as luck would have it, he also was one of those aboard the ship 8 years ago. He actually was one of the main officers of that ship. A few years older than Elizabeth and a good friend to her father, he develops a liking towards Elizabeth and actually tries to propose to her after the ceremony.
Sadly, she falls into the ocean (due to being asphyxiated by the aforementioned tight corset) before he can finish the proposal.
Luckily, she’s saved from drowning by a certain pirate who’s entered Port Royal without being discovered yet. A certain vagabond by the name of Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp.
Surprisingly, Norrington isn’t happy that Jack has saved Elizabeth’s life, and actually has his men arrest Jack (for being a pirate). But Jack manages to escape from them.
While running away from the soldiers, Jack finds a blacksmith’s shop and hides there hoping that nobody would notice him. Much to his displeasure, somebody does indeed notice him: the blacksmith’s apprentice, Will Turner, played by Orlando Bloom.
Will was actually the young boy who was found floating on the raft eight years ago. Since then, he has been close with the Swann family and has gained a liking towards Elizabeth much like Norrington has. The difference though, is that Elizabeth actually likes Will and not Norrington. Oh well, more of this “love triangle” later, let’s get back to Jack and Will.
Will recognizes Jack to be the pirate that the soldiers are looking for and proves himself quite skillful with the sword as the two have a duel in the blacksmith’s shop.
The duel ends as the soldiers catch up with Jack and incarcerate him in one of the dungeon cells.
And that’s the end of that…until later that night, when the weather seems to change. Everything gets dark and strange noises appear by the dock. Not only are there strange noises, but there’s a strange sight. A pirate ship called the “Black Pearl” has entered the harbor and the pirates have laid siege on Port Royal and its citizens.
You see, the “Black Pearl” is a legendary pirate ship that’s supposedly run by pirates who are so evil that even Hell spat them out. The ship is also the fastest and most formidable ship on the waters. So, naturally, everyone runs for safety when the pirates invade.
After pillaging and looting, the pirates come across Elizabeth and are about to kill her when she asks for “parley”.
No, parley! Apparently, by the official “Pirate Code”, if a victim asks for parley, it means that he/she has to be escorted safely to the captain of the ship so that they may discuss things, mostly terms to let the victim go free and the besieging to end.
Once aboard the ship, she meets the captain of the ship named Barbossa, played by Geoffrey Rush.
She introduces herself as Elizabeth Turner (as opposed to Elizabeth Swann) and makes a deal with the pirates. She comes to the conclusion that the pirates are after a particular gold coin that she wears as a necklace and offers to give it to them if they’ll stop bombarding the city. (The gold coin necklace was actually Will Turner’s, but she took it from him when he was unconscious on the ship eight years ago).
Barbossa agrees to her conditions…but sadly, Elizabeth forgot to include in her terms that she should be brought back to the city safely, so the pirates take her as a hostage and sail away.
The next day, Norrington and his crew decide to send out some ships to try to find the “Black Pearl”. Will suggests that they ask Jack Sparrow where the “Black Pearl” would be headed to since he himself is a pirate. Norrington says no to this idea.
Unsatisfied with Norrington’s decisions, Will takes it upon himself and heads to the dungeon to make a deal with Jack. He offers to help Jack escape in exchange for Jack’s help to find the “Black Pearl”. Jack agrees and is soon freed…and is soon is possession of a British Navy ship, the “Interceptor”, that he and Will quite conveniently pilfered for their ship-seeking purposes.
As they go about their journey, they stop at at an island to gather a crew and Will learns a secret about his past. Apparently his father was also a pirate and was known as Bootstrap Bill Turner. Not only that, but Jack personally knew Bootstrap Bill back in the day. Will takes a while to stomach this new piece of family trivia.
Meanwhile aboard the Black Pearl, Barbossa starts to explain to Elizabeth why they need the gold piece. Apparently, Barbossa and his men had plundered some Incan gold many years ago that was supposedly cursed. At first, they didn’t believe in the curse, but soon they weren’t able to satisfy their bodily desires. They would eat and eat and not get full. They would drink and drink and not get quenched. They wouldn’t be able to feel and they wouldn’t be able to die. They were trapped in a curse of unlivable immortality. And their true selves were only apparent under the moonlight.
The only way for the curse to be broken is for all the gold pieces that they plundered to be returned to their treasure chest that Barbossa and his men have hidden in some nearby caves. They managed to get all the gold pieces back except for the one that Elizabeth has, and that’s why they need her gold piece.
So you may be asking yourself why they need Elizabeth. Well, the curse is broken by returning all the gold pieces AND spilling the blood (merely making a cut in the hand) of a Turner. You see, Bootstrap Bill Turner was the only one of them who didn’t partake in the plundering of the Incan gold and believed that Barbossa and his men truly deserved to be cursed. They, of course, killed him. And somehow…Bootstrap Bill’s non-participation means that his blood is needed to end the curse. Oh well, I’m buying it.
But, as we know, Elizabeth isn’t REALLY a Turner, so when they finally reach the caves, return the gold piece, and slice her hand, nothing happens leading to a bunch of angry pirates.
Thankfully, Jack and Will arrive in time to save Elizabeth from the rowdy mob. Will and Elizabeth make it back safely to the “Interceptor”, but Jack is caught by the pirates. The “Interceptor” sails ahead without Jack (due to the rules of the Pirate Code) and Jack makes a deal with Barbossa to give him Turner’s true offspring, Will. And seeing how Barbossa and his men NEED Turner’s offspring, he accepts Jack’s proposal and they all go aboard the “Black Pearl” and try to overtake the “Interceptor”.
On the journey, we learn more about Jack’s past. You see, apparently Jack was once the captain of the “Black Pearl” until Barbossa and the other men laid mutiny on him and left him on a deserted island to die. Somehow or another, Jack made it off the island alive. How?
Anyway after a little naval skirmish, they catch up to the “Interceptor” and capture everyone aboard. And Barbossa doesn’t show any changed colors by abandoning Jack AGAIN on the same island as before (this time with Elizabeth) and keeps Will and the others as prisoners/hostages. Good ol’ Barbossa, always fighting fair!
On the island, Jack explains to Elizabeth exactly how he got off the island the first time. Apparently, the island was used as an illegal rum storage by some rumrunners and he bartered passage from them the next time they visited the island. But it appears now that the rum-running business is out of business. So how do they get off the island? Well, Elizabeth decides to set everything on the island on fire so as to attract the attentions of any passing ship.
Surprisingly, the plan works as the British Navy ship, the “Dauntless”, led by Commodore Norrington notices the fire and rescues Elizabeth and Jack. Norrington is still unsympathetic towards Jack and plans to punish him when they arrive back in Port Royal. But, Jack (along with Elizabeth’s sudden promise to accept Norrington’s marriage proposal) persuades Norrington that the “Black Pearl” is not in shipshape order (see what I did there? shipshape, lol!) and that they can go after it, capture the pirates, and save Will. Reluctantly, Norrington agrees.
So they head out to the caves in order to lay a surprise attack on Barbossa and his men. Sadly, the surprise is on Norrington as Barbossa’s men attack the “Dauntless”.
Jack manages to sneak into the caves before Will’s blood is let and has a one-on-one duel with Barbossa. The duel ends when Jack passes the last gold coin to Will and Will drops it back into the chest with his blood on it. This causes the pirates aboard the ship (as well as Barbossa) to become human again. The pirates aboard the ship are captured and Barbossa is shot dead by Jack.
After these events, everybody heads back to Port Royal and Jack is still headed for the gallows. But, Will and Elizabeth feel somewhat sorry for Jack and help Jack escape onto his ship (he’s regained the “Black Pearl”) and sail away. Will also sees a happy ending as Elizabeth tells Norrington that she wants to marry Will and not him like she promised earlier. Man, I feel so sorry for Norrington.
And that’s that. What can I say? This film is not a favorite of mine, but I strongly believe it to be a really good film.
The actors are amazing, Johnny Depp especially (He was even nominated for the “Academy Award for Best Actor” and deservingly so). The story is quite simple, yet at the same time a bit complicated, thereby producing just the right mixture of texture and simplicity.
The cinematography, fight scenes, and visual effects are enjoyable to watch (at least for its time). I don’t really have much/any problem with this movie. And I can totally see why this movie revolutionized Disney’s live-action films as well as it did the pirate genre. Why, do you ask?
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 33/35 = 94.29% (A) !