#248 – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

From 884,858 votes, Pirates of the Caribbean has an 8.0/10 rating on IMDb.

Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.
One of my absolute most favourite ‘genres’ in the world is ‘pirate with a hint of fantasy’. One of my favourite videogame series is Monkey Island. One of my favourite books is On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers (the plot of which is lifted for a future Pirates of the Caribbean film). So really, this film should be (and is) really up my alley. Anyone who has been on one of the many Pirates of the Caribbean rides in one of Disney’s excellent theme parks across the world can attest, this movie is a faithful rendition of how it feels. It’s a total ride, leaving the audience no opportunity to be bored.
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From the debauched revelry in the Tortugan port to the charming stuffiness of Port Royal to the sinister villainy of Captain Barbossa’s undead crew, Pirates of the Caribbean is a stunning adaptation of the legendary buccaneers and their superstitions wrapped up in a 2-hour romp with witty writing, a stellar cast and breathtaking set pieces. This may lowkey be one of my favourite movies, even if I have less love for the next entries in the series. And on that note can you believe this came out 14 years ago? It feels like only yesterday that I saw it in the cinema. It’s up there with Shrek in childhood-defining cinema.
The action begins pretty much as soon as the movie starts. We’re treated to some set-up exposition with the disdain of pirates established in the opening seconds. Oh and get used to the word “pirates”. I’m sure I’ll be using the word almost half as much as the movie does, and the movie uses it liberally. Anyway, the action. From Jack Sparrow’s antics on the dock to the Black Pearl’s ransack, the film barely lets you catch a breath as it transitions from one scene to the next. And it is so well done. A personal highlight is the swordfight between Jack and Will which is so brilliantly choreographed and put to music that flares and strikes as the swords clang.
It would be impossible to write about Pirates without mentioning probably the most iconic pirate since Blackbeard in media: Captain Jack Sparrow. The bumbling, notorious and almost incompetently competently brilliant pirate who throws a wrench in the works of this film being a simple “rescue the damsel in distress” flick and is probably responsible for a great deal of the film’s success. He’s such an iconic figure now that just searching for Johnny Depp in google has a picture of the eyeliner-wearing, slightly fey, piratey heartthrob sitting there on the top row.
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It helps that Sparrow has Will Turner to play off of, because he would undoubtedly be a smarmy, insufferable excuse for a hero without the straight-man Orlando Bloom provides. Add Keira Knightley and you’ve got a strong leading cast who carry the movie forwards with ease.
One thing that the film does well is sustain its romantic subplot whilst also not letting it overtake the far more interesting main driving force of the plot (i.e. undead pirates). The relationship between Turner and Swann is obvious, reinforced and tastefully done. The rivalry between Will Turner and Commodore Norrington is barely even a thing. I mean come on, have you seen Orlando Bloom? Nobody would or should blame her for picking the blacksmith over the guy in a ridiculous wig.
Overall, Pirates of the Caribbean is a fantastic film that’s well worth watching if you’re reading this before having done so. If not for the great plot, iconic music or brilliant cast, but you get to see that bloke from The Office all up in drags and a skeleton monkey (seriously, why did they curse the monkey?!)
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Pictured: my favourite little awesome touch.
RYAN’S HISTORY CORNER
Well I love pirates. And I know a thing or two about them. So let’s have a look at these swashbuckling rogues.
Some of the West Indian islands such as San Domingo were populated with cattle of various kinds. The natives had been all but killed off by the Spanish expansion into the Americas and thus the cattle populations exploded. Trading vessels which sailed from Europe knew this, and were manned by daring sailors who did not hesitate to dock at the seaports of these islands in order to acquire beef. The natives of these islands who had been left under the strict Spanish regime were skilled in the art of drying meats for preservation and also forbidden from trading with anyone but themselves, leaving them quite open to the idea of underhanded deals with the non-Spanish traders.
As news spread of this goldmine of cattle, more and more vessels docked at the islands and even took to achoring at quiet coves and disused beaches in order to smuggle cargoes of beef away from the island not for supplying their own stores, but for drying and trading. This practice became known to the Spanish who were met with considerable resistance when they tried to quash the traders. These roguish merchants and sailors became known as boucaniers which is a French word for “driers of beef”. This is where we get the name ‘buccaneer’ for pirate and also the age of piracy that boomed in the following years. Pirates went from defending themselves against the Spanish to bitterly and gladly waging maritime war against them, attacking the Spaniards whenever there seemed to be a chance of success.
Once the pirates had begun to understand each other and creates organisations within themselves, they called themselves “The Brethren of the Coast” which signified their fraternal-style relations, where they truly stood by each other like brothers. As the piratical way of life became more prosperous, with news of successful raids on Spanish galleons filled with gold spreading across Europe, young men (and some women) left their security and ventured to the Caribbean to lead swashbuckling, dangerous lives filled with gold and rum. And at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to kick back at the end of the day on a warm beach surrounded by hard-earned booty with a drink in-hand?
Further reading: Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts by Frank Richard Stockton

2 thoughts on “#248 – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

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