Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
When this film was made, based on a fairground ride, no one expected it to create as many waves as it did. Pirate-themed films were notorious for losing money, and the mercenary cashing-in on a popular theme park attraction by Disney seemed at odds with mass-market entertainment, but the choice of writers and appointing Gore Verbinski as director was a masterstroke of savvy decision-making, and the result is an adventure film which entertains and is immensely watchable.
The plot is actually surprisingly complex, but never too dense to be inaccessible. Legendary pirates kidnap the governor’s daughter as she refuses to surrender a cursed coin. The blacksmith who gave it to her—and is in love with her—must join forces with the pirates’ former captain, an infamous and ramshackle outlaw, to rescue her. Everything charges forward at incredible pace, the set-pieces are extravagant and inventive, but most of all the characters are—for the most part—well-written and interesting.
A lot of this film hangs on the performance of Johnny Depp as the central pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. His Keith Richards-esque wobbling and likely-drunk rambling fits perfectly into this world, though reportedly studio executives were not impressed with initial footage. Fortunately, Verbinski had the clout to stay the course despite objections and demonstrates the steering of a well-seasoned hand. The protagonist, as it were, is played somewhat woodenly by Orlando Bloom. Though his hamming is ridiculed with tongue-in-cheek relish in later films, for this initial outing he is taken mostly seriously, and it is here the weakest point of the film sits. It still works, however, as though Bloom is below par, Depp is so far above it that the two balance out.
The governor’s daughter could be an entirely vacuous character, but is instead a well-drawn and interesting individual, and it is Keira Knightley who has the most depth to work with in this role. Her talents improve as the series progresses, though here she is still good but without the nuance she later develops. Both Knightley and Bloom have since demonstrated better acting chops, so perhaps they were yet to find their sea-legs. The film itself is stolen without doubt by Geoffrey Rush, who chews all the scenery with his arr-gressive mutinous pirate portrayal. Jonathan Pryce and Jack Davenport are both solid, as are the other supporting players, but the real treat here is the set design. Real ships, real sea, and a sense of being a real pirate.
As the film progresses, the story goes from literal to supernatural, though the segue is subtle and nothing feels out-of-place. This is a good fun film, full of swashbuckling action and genuine moments of comedy. It is well worth a watch.