Arr! Pirates of the Caribbean Reviewed


Erin and I just watched our DVD copy of Pirates of the Caribbean with my parents (thanks, Cameron, for the gift). I'd call it a solid three-star movie, a fun two hours that doesn't insult your intelligence too much so long as you meet it halfway in turning your brain off.

The story follows three main characters. The movie begins with Elizabeth Swann who travels to the Caribbean with her father (who is being sent to become the British governor of a small island) and runs across the devastating aftermath of a pirate attack. They rescue Will Turner, a boy floating on a piece of wreckage from the ship. Elizabeth is the first to notice that he's wearing a piece of pirate's gold, and she takes it in order to protect his secret.

Flash forward about eight to ten years later where governor's daughter Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) is being wooed by the commodore of the island and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is apprenticing to a swordsmith (doing most of the work for his drunken master and getting none of the credit). In walks Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a mad pirate captain without a ship or crew, who tries to commendeer a British ship all by himself (told you he was mad). Jack manages to rescue Elizabeth from drowning, and is still put in prison for his problems. But once Elizabeth's borrowed piece of pirate's gold touches the ocean surface, a magical signal is sent out and Jack's former mutinous (and undead) crew arrive in his old ship, the Black Pearl, to take back the pirate's gold and take the curse off themselves.

Still with me? Probably best not to think too hard about this movie, which is replete with logical flaws (why does Will Turner at 20 not remember that his father was a pirate when he was 8?). Pirates of the Caribbean pulls story elements out of the air and tells a whale of a tale in broad strokes. It all works as an excuse for swashbuckling action and adventure. There's plenty of swordplay (Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp square off in a fight that's at once exciting and brilliant in its comic timing), dashing heroes, a plucky heroine, and a surprisingly sympathetic villain in the form of Geoffrey Rush playing Jack Sparrow's mutinous and cursed first officer Captain Barbarossa.

The number one reason to see this movie, however, is Johnny Depp as the swashbuckling pirate captain Jack Sparrow, who just walks away with the film, planting it firmly in I'm-camp-and-I-don't-care territory. Depp entrances the audience with his quirky mannerisms and sheer insanity, and he does so while providing hints of a deeper always-scheming, ten-steps-ahead-of-the-competition character. He's helped by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley and a script which wisely defers all matters to Depp and allow him to carry the movie.

Elizabeth: "Which side is Jack on?"

Will: "At the moment?"

At two hours and fifteen minutes, the movie could do with some trimming as it doesn't sustain its pace and energy throughout, but by and large everything was going well until the final fifteen minutes. Then, after the climax is achieved and Jack Sparrow is in the hands of the British Navy, the Walt Disney Happy Ending Machine (tm) grinds to life, wrenching the movie off of its emotional foundation, shoving illogical words and actions into various characters' mouths and making a complete joke out of the plot (and not in a good way). In the end, you sort of wish the movie had ended sooner.

Pirates of the Caribbean succeeds primarily on the good will generated by its comic timing and the manic performance of Johnny Depp. The heroes are suitably dashing, the heroine is suitably plucky, the pirates are suitably "Arr!" and the British naval officers are suitably incompetent. All told, it's not an offensive way to spend two hours, although I would have been much happier if Will and Elizabeth and looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and jumped off the cliff after Jack, singing "A Pirate's Life For Me". It's a shame, but Disney is just too addicted to its babyfaced heroes and heroines settling down and getting married, like another prince and princess. The tone of the ending is just plain wrong; princes have no place in a pirates' movie.

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