Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for a brand new review series that will extend all the way to the end of July, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CHEST OF REVIEWS! Today we will be focusing on the first movie in the franchise, “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Unlike the previous series of old movie reviews done on Scene Before, otherwise known as the 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS series, I have much less familiarity with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. So for a few of these movies, I will be getting a fresh take. Without further ado, let’s dive into my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is directed by Gore Verbinski (The Mexican, The Ring) and stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood), Geoffrey Rush (The Devil’s Rejects, Double Impact), Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film is based on a Disney theme park ride and follows Jack Sparrow, an eccentric captain who joins forces with blacksmith Will Turner to save Elizabeth Turner, otherwise known as the governor’s daughter, and fend off some undead pirate allies.
My first time watching “The Curse of the Black Pearl” occurred when I was eight years old. I just came back from a trip to Disney World, and one of the more fun memories I had on that trip was getting to experience the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Naturally, it would only make sense that days later I would make the trip to my local Blockbuster and rent “The Curse of the Black Pearl” on DVD. I watched it once, and of course, since I had no concept of what a good or bad movie really was, I just took it as it went. Prior to this review, I have not watched “The Curse of the Black Pearl” since that Blockbuster rental period. Not even for fun. I have pretty much avoided the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise altogether. I had nothing against it. But it was just something I never dedicated my time towards. To me it is like “Game of Thrones.” I have not seen one episode, but I am trying to find a single time I can get myself in the mood to watch it. But, having owned the Blu-ray for a number of years, I figured now would be a good opportunity to utilize it. After all, I figured this would be one of the few review series I would tackle in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. So was my dive into Caribbean piracy worth it?
I’d say it was. I can see why people love this movie. It is fun, it’s nearly campy even though it does have a sense where it kind of takes itself seriously, and the actors are great in it from Johnny Depp to Orlando Bloom to Keira Knightley. This is also the first Disney feature to be rated PG-13, and I’d say that this was a solid introduction to slight maturity. The action in the film is pristine, seeing the chemistry between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner was a treat, and having seen this film in the 2020s, I do want to point out that looking back, I can see why Johnny Depp seemed like a good Willy Wonka on paper. Say what you want about the end result of that role. But Jack Sparrow was written with great balance of goofiness and seriousness that combine for a recipe of greatness.
To me, Jack Sparrow sort of reminded me of the very objective that Disney seems to pull off with its younger viewers. You know how kids often pretend to be their favorite characters or they’ll buy merch related to them or costumes overtime to play as them? You’ll see young girls as Cinderella or young boys playing with their Buzz Lightyear action figure? I felt like, even though we get that slice of seriousness within Jack Sparrow’s character, he’s almost like a young kid who really wants to be a pirate, but he does not understand the full gig so he just improvises in almost every other step. If anything, I think this is a good way to get younger viewers attached while balancing that PG-13 rating for the more mature viewers.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is between Depp and Bloom as they’re engaging in a duel. I’m watching this scene and it sort of takes me back to why I love “Star Wars” so much because it is a film that manages to find that fine line where almost anyone could end up watching it and enjoying it. This duel from the first half hour or so is a perfect combination of establishing your characters, what they want, what they need, and showing off their personalities. Jack Sparrow has this weirdly suave outlook to him because in actuality, he’s a flawed character, but he does the best he can to hide said flaws. It kind of reminds me of that show on HBO, “Avenue 5,” where we see main character, Ryan Clark, who is the captain of a ship, but he gets by as the captain more because of his personality rather than actually knowing any of the technical details that go into running a ship. Sparrow, from what I can suggest, is smarter than Ryan Clark on “Avenue 5,” but they share a tendency to establish themselves with their personality before anything else.
One more thing I want to point out, and I cannot go on without mentioning this, because I think anyone who has ever heard of “Pirates of the Caribbean” will get one thought in their head aside from Jack Sparrow and swashbuckling adventures, the theme music.
The music in “Pirates of the Caribbean” is too good for words. It is one of the best movie themes ever created. It is up there with “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” and “Inception” in terms of how epic and iconic the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme truly is. I can imagine myself driving my car into the ocean and listening to this until I inevitably realize that I am a terrible driver and need to reconsider whatever the heck it is that I’m doing. Klaus Badelt, you’re a mastermind.
If I had any major flaws with “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” it would probably be that some of the supporting characters are somewhat forgettable. It’s like in “The Hobbit” where you have so many of them that it is difficult to keep track of them all. Plus Sparrow outshines them all significantly. Granted, he’s the lead, but it is still something to bring up. Other than that, this movie is a great first attempt for Disney making a PG-13 feature. If anything, I’d say that “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is a modern day “The Princess Bride.” Say what you want about the film’s timelessness, that is up for debate. But the film is great for both kids and adults, it’s got hypnotizing sword fights, and it does not always take itself seriously, which is not a bad thing. “Pirates” is a bit more serious than “Bride,” but it is worth noting that there is almost a tonal consistency from one film to the other despite being set in different universes.
In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is in a word… Fun. It’s good ol’ fashioned Disney fun for a slightly more mature audience. I often make fun of Disney because nowadays it almost feels as if they don’t have a single original idea in their tank. In fact, this whole review series is being done because Disney is coming out with “Jungle Cruise” in just a few weeks, which like this movie, is based on a theme park ride. But as much as I make fun of Disney for never going after original ideas with the exception of maybe Pixar, I will give them credit for movies like this where they take a concept that already exists and end up going balls to the wall with it. In short, I really enjoyed “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” I think Johnny Depp was perfectly cast as Jack Sparrow, and I am looking forward to talking about the sequels, even though I hear that they are not as good as this movie. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” an 8/10.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray, and you can also watch it on Disney+.
Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” That review will be up on Thursday, July 8th, and stay tuned for more in the ongoing Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews series! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite PG-13 film from Disney? Yes, I’ll even count Lucasfilm, Marvel, or even any of the Fox stuff they own now. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!