A spin off from an amusement ride at the Disneyland theme park in California, The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl could have bombed from its attempt to incorporate too many genres. However, actors Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp teamed up to make 134 minutes of hard-core sword clashing, ghost hunting, and treasure stealing rush by faster than the HMS Interceptor, the fastest ship in the Caribbean.
Many years ago, the crew of the Black Pearl hunted for the legendary treasure of Cortéz: 183 gold medallions stolen from the Aztecs. Once the pirates discovered the location of the chest, they squandered the gold. However, the men disregarded the warning that a curse would be placed on every mortal that removed a piece from the chest. The crew thus became a group of wandering skeletons that show their true form only in the presence of moonlight.
The ruthless crew, led by the notorious Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), kidnaps Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the Governor's daughter, as she is the owner of the sole medallion left to be returned to the chest. But of course, no beautiful lady can be kidnapped without handsome rescuers turning up to save her.
Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth's childhood friend and the true owner of the medallion, joins forces with Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a cunning but cordial pirate marooned by Barbossa in a long-ago mutiny, to find the Black Pearl and bring Elizabeth to safety.
From their first sword fight in the blacksmith's shop, the chemistry between Depp and Bloom is obvious. Bloom, as it turns out, is as good with a sword as with his bow and arrow, with which he gained fame as Legolas in Lord of the Rings. And Depp further impresses the feminine audience with his swarthy skin and gorgeous eyes; he enchants them with laughter in his voice.
The quick, humorous moments are what make the completely unrealistic plot so believable. For example, as the men cross swords near the rafters, Jack throws a bag of sandy dirt into Will's face, then threatens him with a pistol. Blinded for a few seconds, Will argues, "You cheated!" With a knowingly sarcastic and exasperated expression, Jack shrugs his shoulders and offers his explanation: "Pirate!" However, writers did not really put any challenges into the script for any character to master. Depp says every line flawlessly, and needless to say it was disappointing.
The combat scenes in the movie, while not up to speed with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or The Matrix, are incredible in their own realm. They piece together bits of Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers, and Robin Hood to create enough suspense for the fights to be thrilling but not life-threatening. The inspirational music, along with a few plumed hats, stirs up flashbacks to days where heroism was exciting even without complex special effects or computer animation.
Not to say that Pirates of the Caribbean was without special effects. It was no spectacular science fiction flick, which gets all of its praise for computer animation, but the director Gore Verbinski, recently praised for his direction of The Ring, pulled off a few subtle, yet persuasive effects.
In one interesting scene where the pirates brawl in a cave, moonlight shines through cracks in the ceiling and illuminates their true forms (skeletons), sometimes for only seconds at a time. The outcome is chilling, rather than gruesome and gory, and exceptional for a movie that tries to combine both thrills, action, and romance.
While both male protagonist characters attract the most attention, there is a fair amount of feminism in the movie portrayed through only two female roles. Elizabeth is unfortunately the clichéd adventurous girl who is suffocated more by her tedious lifestyle than by her too-tightly laced corsets. She runs away from protection, laughs in the face of danger, and even though she has been raised as a respectable lady, she knows how to steer a ship, fire a gun, and invoke the pirate rite of "parley."
The other female character, Anamaria, the female pirate in Jack and Will's ragtag crew, does not provide too much other than a body at the helm and a nasty smirk for the occasional "bad luck to have a woman on board"-type comment.
Though the female roles seem to lack special qualities, their male counterparts make up for it with terrific choreography, humor, and confidence. The movie changes mood frequently, and luckily fluidly, so that by the end your cheeks are tearstained and your stomach is cramped from long laughter attacks. The Pirates of the Caribbean is a real treasure you don't have to search high and low to find.
The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is rated PG-13 for ation/violence.
Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »