Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
October 12, 2022 8:13 AM - Subscribe

Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives at Port Royal in the Caribbean without a ship or crew. His timing is inopportune, however, because later that evening the town is besieged by a pirate ship. The pirates kidnap the governor's daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), who's in possession of a valuable coin that is linked to a curse that has transformed the pirates into the undead. A gallant blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) in love with Elizabeth allies with Sparrow in pursuit of the pirates.

Also starring, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Zoe Saldaña.

Directed by Gore Verbinski. Written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio.

80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Disney plus. Also available for digital rental on multiple outlets. JustWatch listing.

Today, I'm going to post a bunch of movies that have merit and are worth discussing, but to one degree or another, are problematic. I will be tagging them #problematicmovies. In this case, it's because of the film's star, who people justifiably have feelings about these days.
posted by DirtyOldTown (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jill Bearup's YouTube channel discusses film fights from the perspective of one trained in stage combat. The early fight between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner is one of her favorites.
posted by Gelatin at 8:27 AM on October 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh, man, I love/loved this movie and I've watched it dozens of times. And it's so hard to watch now, but it's just glorious in how well constructed it is.

This terrific video essay is a great, in-depth exploration of why the movie works so well. It's an hour, I know, I KNOW, but it zooms by and it's worth the watch if like me you're a fan of the movie and you A) want to enjoy and appreciate the delightful cleverness of it all BUT B) can't seem to rouse yourself into the sustained mental quickstepping it would require to sit down and watch the actual movie at this point.

Great topic for a series, DOT! I'll be following.
posted by mochapickle at 8:31 AM on October 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Just for the record, there was only one of these movies made. Rumors of a franchise are untrue. There was only one movie. Just like there were only two Godfather films, two Alien movies, wash, rinse, repeat.

In retrospect of course, Depp is trash and it does make it difficult to get past. But those sword fights, the plot that despite twisting itself too far never quite breaks, and damn, Captain Jack's entry into the harbor (and the film) is just priceless.
posted by Ber at 8:46 AM on October 12, 2022 [9 favorites]

Jack Davenport, who as far as I know is not a known slimeball, is underrated in this film as Norrington.

It's a surprisingly enjoyable film...for future generations, once watching it can no longer be said to be putting money in Depp's pocket.
posted by praemunire at 9:46 AM on October 12, 2022 [8 favorites]

This film has no right to be this good. My hot take is that this movie isn't quite as fun to watch these days, but that's less from knowing what an abusive creep Johnny Depp is and more about how Johnny Depp has devolved as an actor. He used to do a lot of dramatic roles, some good and some bad, but all putting out Very Self-Serious Actor Vibes. As such, the goofball pirate Keith Richards character was a hilarious contrast to the rest of his career. Johnny Depp is all cartoon now -- both his actual film roles and the weird Jack Sparrow routine he does for public appearances -- so even this lively performance feels a bit tepid in hindsight.

But THEN the jaunty soundtrack kicks in and there's a swordfight and some backstabbing, which is all I really want in a movie. And Geoffrey Rush is still very good as a deranged pirate!
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:55 AM on October 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

"I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request. ... Means 'no.'" -Barbossa

I adore the way this returns snobbery to sender.
posted by humbug at 11:16 AM on October 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

I watched this 10 years ago and immediately felt compelled to do a scene by scene breakdown of it because you all are right, the structure is just. so. beautiful!!!!! I weep at its beauty. There is not a single misplaced beat in there, what a fabulous movie.
posted by MiraK at 11:30 AM on October 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Gore Verbinski, a music video and commercial director with the instincts of Michael Bay and the style of David Fincher, directed all of Dreamwork’s surprise-hit films when the upstart studio was aiming to disembowel Disney rather than merely be a thorn in its side. Disney hired him away to do this film, held him to his Pirates contract, and saddled him with The Lone Ranger, a problematic film with rather less quality. Verbinski has seemingly become a professional Depp wrangler, which isn’t exactly a growth field. It’s a bummer.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:12 PM on October 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

I saw this on opening day expecting to find it laughably annoying and left stunned how great it was. So cool how they worked in ride references without being obnoxious about it. There was plenty to enjoy if you hadn't ridden Pirates of the Caribbean hundreds of times but as someone who had, there were lots of cute little winks in there for the parks nerds.

Disney absolutely didn't think the movie would do well. They didn't even start selling merch until like a month after it came out. I do feel like once this was as big a hit as it was, Disney kept trying to make it happen again with other ride movies and never even came close.
posted by potrzebie at 7:24 PM on October 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Such a fun movie. I'm so glad they didn't spoil it by making a bunch of increasingly dreary sequels.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:00 PM on October 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

I didn't fully hate the second one. That three-way swordfight on the millwheel, that was genuinely fun.
posted by mochapickle at 9:19 PM on October 12, 2022

One of the interesting things about this movie is that, for a long time, there was a suspicion amongst adventure gamers that this was a stealth adaptation of the Monkey Island games, by Lucasarts. At their peak, Lucasarts explored adapting a few of their adventure game properties; as far as we know, the only one that made it through was a truly terrible sitcom adaptation of Maniac Mansion. But the writing team who wrote this game were pitched doing something with Monkey Island, which was kicking around as a film project with Spielburg attached to produce (who, famously, loved the games). Given that the game is heavily inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, some of the similarities are expected, but there's other similarities that seem like long bows to draw from the ride, and there are some elements, like the coffin rowboat out to the voodoo shack in the swamp from this film's sequel, that feel like direct lifts.

For what it's worth, most of the people involved think it unlikely; reportedly they were already working on this movie at the time, a lot of the most memorable characters and events are original to the film, and the film pitch had diverged widely from the games by that point, so there's no reason to suspect that the writers would have seen it as a source to pinch from. Disney owns both film and game now, so even in the worst case scenario it no longer matters, anyway.

Jill Bearup

speaking of problematic... turns out she harbours some fairly TERFy views that she keeps out of her work but apparently hasn't given up on, either.
posted by Merus at 10:50 PM on October 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

We had the version of the Maniac Mansion game where you could microwave the hamster. And I actually enjoyed the TV series. It was silly, but silly has its place on TV.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:29 AM on October 13, 2022

I hadn't heard the Monkey Island theory before, that's interesting. I always thought they were inspired by Tim Power's On Stranger Tides which had the whole pirates/magic theme.
posted by Eddie Mars at 12:55 PM on October 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think On Stranger Tides is the source for Monkey Island. Go read Tim Powers, people!
posted by PussKillian at 6:56 PM on October 14, 2022

I watched the video mochapickle linked to above: it is great! I do think the guy took Barbossa's speech about feeling nothing too literally. Obviously the undead pirates feel basic physical sensation, otherwise they'd be non-functional. Why not also unpleasant things, like being burnt, stabbed, or exploded? It's a magical curse.
posted by mersen at 4:58 AM on October 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oh, man, I love/loved this movie and I've watched it dozens of times. And it's so hard to watch now, but it's just glorious in how well constructed it is.
On that note - it is also interesting that the "construction" of the movie is literally arrived from the physical construction of the original Disney attraction. - the ride needed to give the most entertainment to a large, diverse, international clientele in the shortest space of time. Its construction was based on a whole lot of engineering, safety and crowd management constraints and to make sense to people, it needed a rock solid narrative. All ready for the film to just lift.

The ride itself seems to have been modelled on the exploits of French pirate Jean Lafite - who was described as "sharp, resourceful, but also handsome and friendly, enjoying drinking, gambling, and women". Lafite adopted aristocratic mannerisms and attire and his story had been the inspiration of 3 films, a dozen books and the character of Cap'n Crunch even before the Disney ride. So - a clear link the Captain Jack: and like actor and movie franchise: a story that begins in a definite way and then tails off dramatically in terms of quality and reputation.
posted by rongorongo at 12:54 AM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

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