The first hour of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is one of the most entertaining blockbusters of 2000s. Gore Verbinski captures all of his budget on screen, with huge swashbuckling set pieces and chases and outstanding period production values. The action comes at a furious clip. You can almost taste the popcorn as you watch.
The characters leave immediate impressions, but none moreso than Johnny Depp. Yes, his career-making turn as Captain Jack Sparrow is just as charismatic, lovable but slimy, as you remember. His blend of lithe physicality and swarthy quipping elevates every scene he’s in.
Klaus Badelt is the credited composer of the score, with Hans Zimmer listed as a producer, but it’s perhaps the most Zimmer-esque score you’ll ever hear. As with Zimmer’s best blockbuster work from the era, it’s a tuneful, commanding score that energizes and almost overpowers the film around it.
Unfortunately, the film’s second half loses the thread and hints at the narrative morass that would bog down subsequent Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The back half of the film spends too much of its time in dreary darkness, characters appearing and disappearing from scenes without much cohesion. The emphasis on a spooky curse and CGI-based spectacle derails the fun chase-and-rescue story that had driven the film thus far.
But even in that second half, there are some really exciting sequences and moments, including a hilarious scene where Depp and Keira Knightley get stranded on a desert island. The actors are doing great work, have great comic chemistry, yet still feel like they’re from totally different movies (in a charming way).
It’s a movie absolutely worth watching and enjoying even if it wears out its welcome before the runtime is done.
- Review Project: 2009 Top 100
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.