DVD Review
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean poster
By Stephen Lucas     Published January 6, 2004
US Release: July 9, 2003

Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp , Geoffrey Rush , Keira Knightley , Orlando Bloom

Running Time: 143 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $305,411,000
Pirates could have been trimmed quite a bit to achieve a more appealing rhythm, but as it is, the film is a relatively quick 150 minutes given that there?s much to be occupied with.
Hollywood is a funny machine; for as many senseless blockbusters that get produced, there are only handfuls of them that rise above being abysmal. Instead of just visually stimulating audiences, these films will inspire repeat viewings and earn recommendations from people who see the movie, which is how a hit is born.

?Pirates of the Caribbean? is an irrefutably an example of this given situation being one of 2003?s biggest box office successes. ?Pirates? is a fun and upbeat action/adventure full of explosions, sword fights, and spot-on humor. It?s a good and entertaining film, though some of its reaches come up short. It?s not on par with recent action films such as ?X2: X-Men United,? but it is absolutely a crowd pleaser, for better or worse.

Some say that you can?t have too much of a good thing. I personally disagree in regard to this film; what could have been a tight, enthralling epic at two hours is instead thirty minutes too long, losing some of its grip over those watching. The sheer vision and scope of the production is commendable, and I can?t say I wasn?t entertained the first time I saw the film. Now, though, having seen it twice, the true colors of ?Pirates of the Caribbean? are apparent, though not tarnished.

The first time, I remember being genuinely taken aback by how extraordinary the set pieces were and the cinematography, giving the film a breathtaking glow. Johnny Depp, whom I will mention later, is also a fantastic reason to see the movie, if not being the best. Having seeing it again, though, I noticed that some of the scenes opened quite slowly (as the triumphant, brass-heavy score blows in) and others dragged on a bit too long. At one point, I recall wondering why certain things were included in the film when they really don?t have much significance; but despite those things, I still like it.

I enjoy this film because of the fact that it isn?t ignorant of decent writing. Screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (?Shrek?) have crafted a script of surprising charm and wit, with sufficient character development and winning dialogue. The visual spectacle of the film may sometimes overwhelm the sly writing, but there?s no doubting that it?s there.

Not only does ?Pirates? embrace the audience and take it aboard, but we also feel welcome on the voyage. The way in which the story is told has a very grand stature to it, as if we?re being told old pirate stories, one after the other. Jack Sparrow himself seems like something of a myth; Depp, doused in heavy makeup, is brilliant, and his character is truly unforgettable. As he walks with a goofy limp, waving his hands in the air, Sparrow is the most flamboyant pirate you?re likely to ever meet. I give Depp credit for taking on such a risky role; if he hadn?t delivered, this could have been a torturous career move.

The supporting cast consisting of Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley (?Bend it Like Beckham?) and Geoffey Rush each add their own flavor to the film, giving their respective characters a sufficient amount of worth. Too often in films like this one (gigantic in production, not so much on story), side players don?t often have much worth, and so when things happen to them, we don?t care; it?ll be just another death to add to the toll or part of a thrilling scene. I?m not saying that these characters die, but in general, action films tend to forget that the hero?s comrades need to be interesting as well ? ?Pirates of the Caribbean,? I?m happy to say, fulfills this request.

This is perhaps one of the most notoriously beloved films of the past year, right up there with the likes of ?Finding Nemo? and ?Gigli.? (And yes, that last one is a joke.) Although I can?t say I?m as impressed by the film as others may be, I?ll admit that it?s an enjoyable film with a lot to offer to its audience. ?Pirates? could have been trimmed quite a bit to achieve a more appealing rhythm, but as it is, ?Pirates? is a relatively quick 150 minutes given that there?s much to be occupied with.

It?s not a complex film, nor is it entirely original (pirate gold!), but the production is what gives ?Pirates of the Caribbean? its flair. Director Gore Verbinski illuminates the screen with rousing skill while the film?s cinematography is absolutely engrossing. Although I see a few flaws, I understand why audiences love this film so much. Like many blockbusters, ?Pirates? looks good and has mass appeal. Unlike many blockbusters, this film earns its laughs and thrills ? just for that alone, I acquiesce in recommending it, though not my absolute favorite film. (See ?X2: X-Men United? if you want a more solid action-adventure.)
Stephen's Grade: B
Stephen's Overall Grading: 23 graded movies
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