Home Prof J's Movie Reviews

Pirates of the
Caribbean

I've never really been a fan of the pirate-movie genre. All that water, all those people going "Aaaargh" and "Avast" and saying "ye matey" didn't appeal to me. All that has now changed. If pirate movies are like Disney's latest offering, Pirates of the Caribbean, then I think I'm going to become a devout fan of the pirate-movie genre.

Based on a fun but not stunningly-so ride at Disneyland and Disneyworld, this film surpasses not only its originator but all other films of its genre. This is truly a rollicking, swelling, wind-blown, storm-tossed tale, with several stories all interwoven in a complex, yet not confusing, fashion. The characters who are supposed to be likable are, the villains who are supposed to be frightening are, and the comedy is deftly inserted here and there, making each laugh a surprise.

Although technically not the male lead, and regardless of the filmmaker's intent, Johnny Depp is the focus of the film. Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is a slurring, conniving, dishonest, roguish, thoroughly likable pirate in desperate search of that which was once his. His characterization is a combination of Keith Richards and Pepe LePew (so sayeth Depp) and the combined effect is a completely new characterization for the pirate archetype. Audiences find themselves anticipating each new line, and caring more for the cad than the more noble alternatives.

Such alternatives are Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), an earnest young blacksmith in love with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce). Bloom does an ample job of bringing Will to life, but were it not for scripted character twists, audiences would not give two figs for his fate. Knightley gives a more inspired performance as Elizabeth, a 17th century tomboy. Her character must go from fright to arrogance to calm self-assuredness frequently and she handles the job nicely.

In addition to Depp's character, however, the film also belongs to the evil Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Rush has never been more delicately over-the-top in a performance than he is as the mutinous Barbossa, and he handles each line with an almost salacious delight. From his lips, in his delivery, even the most pat and pandering pirate clichés sound both ominous and earnest.

The supporting cast is too numerous to mention, but the snooty English fellows are so snooty as to almost become a caricature, the pirates are all ugly and smarmy, and each group has in it a pair, each providing their own form of comic relief and plot exposition, but neither to the extent that they become annoying. One of the pair of pirates provided me with a new experience: one scene provoked a laugh, which then became a groan of disgust, which then became a laugh again. When you see the film, you'll know which scene I'm referring to, I'm certain.

This film also sports the absolute best blend of live-action and CGI that I've seen yet. Moonlight becomes the catalyst through which Barbossa and his crew show their true form, and one scene, a fight between Sparrow and Barbossa in a cave, split with shafts of moonlight, is the most impressive use of action and effects I've ever seen in a film.

Combine all of the marvelous acting with Dariusz Wolski's wide, spacious, panoramic cinematography and music by Klaus Badelt, Ramin Djawadi, Nick Glennie-Smith, Steve Jablonsky, and Blake Neely, and you have a movie that has become an instant classic. This is one of the Disney films you'll want to show your children, your grandchildren, friends, co-workers, and even people you don't care for all that much, just so you can know that you showed them something wonderful.

This film gets a boisterous A+ from the riggings of this internet ship. Fun, engaging, thrilling, frightening and overall very entertaining, and Disney's first PG-13 movie to boot! This is definitely one to see in the theatre. The small screen won't do the visuals and effects justice!


Back to the Main Page