Who would have ever guessed that a movie based on a Disney theme park ride
could be any good? It was a pleasant surprise to emerge from
the theater thoroughly satisfied. Pirates Of The Caribbean
feels like a serial of the 1930s. It is filled with fantastical
journeys, high seas adventure, and swarthy pirates. Gore
Verbinski has once again proven himself a capable director
in any genre of film, easily switching gears from the taut,
suspenseful The Ring to this fanciful farce.
As the title would indicate the movie is set in the Caribbean
and the dress of the British marines would suggest sometime
in the 1700s, but really the time and place are when bands
of pirates roved the high seas taking anything and anyone
that wasn’t nailed to the floor. The pirates in this movie
are straight out of childhood imagination complete with eye
patches, parrots, and an unlimited supply of rum. During the
course of this movie people will walk the plank, be abandoned
on a desert island, prepare to repel boarders, and be subjected
to all sorts of classic pirate dialogue—Avast! Har Har! and
All is well in the city of Port Royal until an undead(!)
group of pirates lead by Captain Barbossa (Rush) sails
into town and abducts the governor’s lovely daughter Elizabeth
(Knightley) in a case of mistaken identity. Town blacksmith
Will Turner (Bloom) has taken quite a fancy to Elizabeth
and he takes pursuit with help of Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp),
Barbossa’s former commander and quite possibly the worst (or
is it the best?) pirate on earth. Together this unlikely pair
must sail to the Isla de Muerte and stop the pirates from
sacrificing Elizabeth in a ceremony that would lift their
undead curse, and since they themselves are pirates our two
heroes must stay one step ahead of the British navy.
Pirates takes a while to get going, but once Elizabeth
is abducted things pick up and even during the slow parts
the movie is quite enjoyable. The enthusiasm and charisma
of the cast elevates this movie to the next level. Johnny
Depp is as always excellent. He keeps Jack’s cards close to
the vest, never revealing his true intentions or if his drunken
ways and idiosyncratic behavior are mere façades concealing
the most cunning rogue to sail the high seas. Despite his
pirate garb, Johnny’s mannerisms do come off as a bit effeminate.
When the movie is over and the credits have begun to roll
one is still not entirely sure of Jack Sparrow’s true nature.
Knightley’s Elizabeth is a capable young woman with some modern
ideas about love and woman’s undergarments, but not so modern
as to create a harsh juxtaposition that disrupts the illusary
world created in the film. Bloom plays another straight arrow
(no pun intended) character with Turner, who is willing to
do anything to rescue the love of his life. None of this really
matters: The youth, talent, and comely appearance of these
two foretells their becoming major Hollywood players with
this movie being another step on their way to the top.
The pirates themselves are integral members of the cast and
they benefit from some great special effects work. When exposed
to moonlight the pirates reveal their true forms as undead
skeletons and once they step into shadow they look just like
“normal.” This effect is used only once or twice and never
becomes a gimmick, but the transition from pirate to skeleton
and back is perfect. It features skeletons interacting with
non-skeletons (and thus non-CGI) without a hitch. Many swordfights
take place during Pirates and while they are all enjoyable,
it does take a bit long for them to reach their inevitable
conclusions. The final fight takes a good 25 minutes of rapier-thrusting
insanity with constant musical crescendos in the background.
At the movie’s end, expect to be suffering from sensory overload.
It is a minor quibble really because Pirates Of The Caribbean
keeps it lightweight at all times and delivers exactly what
it promises—high seas, high adventure, and boatloads of fun.