I wonder who at Disney Studios came up with the idea of making movies based on some of their theme park attractions? In my opinion, the idea should have sounded ludicrous, basing a feature length film on a 5-10 minute long ride, impossible. Apparently someone at Disney thought the idea had some merit, though why is beyond me. Especially when the first attempt was the incredibly lame Disney film “The Country Bears”, it is mind boggling that even after such a failure that some executive still said ok to another movie based on a theme park attraction. But, thank God for that executive that gave the idea the green light, because had they not we never would have been treated to what is absolutely the best pirate movie ever created, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” centers on a legendary pirate crew that stole a treasure trove of Aztec gold, that unbeknownst to them carried a dark curse. The curse was that if anyone stole the gold and then separated any of the pieces from the rest of the loot then that person would become the undead. In daylight they would look normal and would never know the curse was upon them, but when moonlight shone they would appear in their cursed form. Now, the undead pirates of the Black Pearl are in search of all the gold pieces they had stolen and spent on various items, a search that has led them far and wide. With only one piece left to retrieve they come to a British settlement in search of the final piece that will lift the curse. The regional governor’s daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) is in possession of the final piece and is taken when she invokes an ancient pirate code of parlay, which demands that she be taken to the pirate captain for negotiation. However, the negotiation doesn’t quite go as planned and Elizabeth becomes prisoner of the undead pirates. With Elizabeth missing, a local blacksmith, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who happens to be in love with her, embarks on a quest to rescue his damsel in distress. To succeed in this endeavor Will must ally himself with that which he hates the most, a pirate. Assisting Will in his endeavor is the pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (a hilarious Johnny Depp), who just so happens to know where the Black Pearl and its crew of the undead call home. For once upon a time, Jack was the captain of the Black Pearl, until he was overthrown in a mutiny led by his traitorous first mate Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush). Now this unlikely pair of heroes set off on their quest, one who is willing to risk it all for the love of his life and the other who simply wants vengeance and to reclaim what was once his.
Though the idea of adapting a theme park ride into a blockbuster movie must have sounded ridiculous (and still does), it’s obvious that someone at Disney knew what he or she were doing and the gamble paid off big time. In my opinion the gamble wouldn’t have been as successful if not for producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“The Rock” and “Con Air”). I wonder if Bruckheimer had any idea just how massive of a hit he had on his hands when he signed on to produce this film, who knows, but the choice was definitely a wise one.
All of the actors delivered outstanding performances, especially Johnny Depp (“Sleepy Hollow”) as the outrageous Captain Jack Sparrow. Orlando Bloom (‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy) and Keira Knightley (“King Arthur”) were perfectly cast as the other two leads in the film, lending a more normal tone to the picture to balance out Jack’s quirky characteristics. Geoffrey Rush was probably one of the biggest surprises for me as Captain Barbosa, I had never seen him in a blockbuster type of film, but he handled the part with ease. Rush played the traitorous Barbosa with a deliciously evil streak who took great joy in the knowledge that he could not be killed, yet there was a hint of sadness at the thought of an eternity cursed and a yearning to be human again.
Assisting the cast, especially the cursed pirates were the visual effects wizards at George Lucas’ ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). This group has always done outstanding work on all of their various projects, but the effects they’ve created here are by far their best ever. The scenes where the cursed pirates switch from human to skeleton form are absolutely flawless, outstanding work from a highly talented organization.
With all that being said, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is proof that sometimes a risk, no matter how foolish it may appear to be, can pay off many times over. All you need is an entertaining and solid script, with wonderful acting from the entire cast, and incredibly realistic CGI effects and you may just have yourself a summer blockbuster that audiences will come back to time and time again.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is rated PG-13 for violence and mild language.