Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)





















Well who'd of thought a film about a theme park ride would become so huge. A simple theme park attraction that I rode when I was but a wee nipper in Disney World Florida, and it wasn't that amazing if I recall. So Verbinski and Bruckheimer take many ideas and leafs out of the video game The Secret of Monkey Island and low and behold we have our pirate flick.

Tis the year of our lord errr...the late 17th Century, or possibly the early 18th Century, not too sure, but plundering be a plenty! The crew of the Black Pearl are after cursed treasure and the blood of the last remaining pirate so they can break the curse put upon them for stealing the cursed gold in the first place. Unfortunately the last pirate is dead (cos they killed him) so they need his offspring instead, in the mean time Captain Jack Sparrow is wanting his beloved vessel back under his control.

The plot is actually kinda fiddly methinks and even now I'm having to wrap my head around exactly why and how things happen. So the Aztec gold is cursed and that curse turns the pirates into the undead, skeletal warriors that are unable to be killed. Now is that really a curse? these guys are pirates, they live a life of danger and plundering, surely being immortal and invincible would be really handy traits to have no? I don't really understand why these guys wanna break the curse so badly and make themselves vunerable to death which inevitably awaits them at every turn. Especially with the whole British Navy after them all the time.

There are many little quibbles I have with the plot really, in all the battle sequences the good guys fight the pirates, but what for?? They can't win, the pirates can't be killed, it just seems so pointless to me. To break the curse all the pirates that stole the gold need to put their blood back into the chest along with all the gold...I think, yet that isn't made clear. You tend to think its just the offspring of Bootstrap Bill, this is why Sparrow wipes his blood on the coin in the end which I never clicked on. That leads me to the other point or mistake that Barbossa is shot by Sparrow before Turner drops the last blood soaked coin into the chest. So doesn't that mean that at the exact moment he was shot he was still cursed and invincible? thusly he should have survived that bullet. The coin should of been in the chest before Barbossa was shot surely.

Quibbles aside the film is actually a rollicking good adventure the likes of which hadn't been seen for some time. In the good old fashioned tradition of Errol Flynn swashbucklers by jove. I can't deny that the film is tremendous fun enhanced of course by the campy performance of Depp which came straight out of left field. No one really expected what Depp came up with and it was really fresh! the film could so easily have become a stuffy straight laced predictable action romp ('Cutthroat Island' anyone?) but the inclusion of Depp's Sparrow really gave a different angle. You have the obligatory hero in Bloom and of course the damsel in distress with Knightly but Sparrow was such a unique character giving such a quirky boost to the traditional proceedings.

On top of that was the inclusion of a vast array of really decent pirate characters both good and bad from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. This not only gave the film a nice comic book-esque feel but also actual realism as of course pirates of the day were a scurvy bunch from all over, pirates were pretty politically correct and hired anyone. I personally liked Mr Cotton and his parrot in the traditional sense there, Ragetti and Pintel are a classic slapstick duo of baddie pirates that amuse nicely and Kevin McNally as Gibbs gives us another traditional approach with lots of golden pirate dialog that I think stems from Robert Newton and Disney's 1966 Treasure Island film.

Gotta give kudos to the makeup and costume designs for the pirates, they really do look completely unwashed. Their teeth, facial hair, coarse knotted looking head hair, even their eyes, it all looks really authentic. Naturally Sparrow isn't quite as scruffy as the rest but his attire is definitely more effeminate which is funny, more so with his body language. Oh and Barbossa...Soul Calibur the movie much? Cervantes if you ask me, just running that up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes it.

In all honesty there are so many good characters in this film its hard to narrow them all down. Then you have the typical type of visuals that you'd think Tim Burton had a hand in, excellent dark atmospheric sequences and shots including dark misty seascapes, fog bound galleons, the yellow glow of light from a cross hatched window pane breaking through the gloomy night, skeleton pirates in the moonlight, bleak islands by night etc...Then on the flip side there are the gorgeous daylight visuals of the British ports, sandy beaches, palm trees, galleons and various other vessels harbouring against tropical settings etc...its all here, everything you'd expect to see and everything you want to see in a good old fashioned pirate film.

I can see why the film expected to bomb as its one of those dodgy types of genres, but from the offset you can see the quality of detail on display. Everything really looks top dollar all the way through the film but amazingly the film has such a good range of characters (which is unusual lets be honest) it really doesn't matter. For once a Hollywood blockbuster actually got it right and gave us something other than flashy special effects, they gave us good fun characters we care about...to a degree. Also the special effects aren't all CGI which is one for the books (skeletons aside), a lot of the action is using real sets, real explosions, real stunts and in real locations which really does make all the difference, just like in the good old days.

The actual pirate skeletons still look OK but of course feel a bit dated these days. The CGI can't be hidden with these guys and it is obvious, that inescapable fake plastic feel about them. Should have used stop motion I reckon.

To this day I still can't believe this summer blockbuster managed to do what the creators set out to do. To make a film harking back to the days of the silver screen, the golden age of Hollywood and at the same time use traditional real time effects without much use of CGI (what they did use was sensibly done, sparingly). They took an Errol Flynn swashbuckler added some nice touches of humour, a little modern action here and there, a dash of good old fashioned sea tales/myths and cranked up the location visuals to produce a top adventure. If only the plot had been a little clearer in places. Gotta love the film title though huh.

7/10