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

pirates of the carribbean curse of the black pearl

“You seem somewhat familiar. Have I threatened you before?”

The Scoop: 2003 PG-13, directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Keira Knightley

Tagline: Prepare to be blown out of the water.

Summary Capsule: Corset-hating fair maiden and pirate heir-apparent hit the waves with the Keith Richards of the seas to battle scallywags caught in cursed limbo who just can’t get no satisfaction…


Alex’s rating: Bloom, Depp, Rush… Who do I drool after first?

Alex’s review: So I’m sitting here wondering if this is the right moment to launch into a rant about Disney that has been spinning itself in my head for quite a few years now. The only problem with doing it now, is that I would be forced to end it on a positive note, in admitting how thoroughly I enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean, and in doing so I wouldn’t be able to fully condemn every bit of Disney to the fiery inferno of punishment that I otherwise think it deserves. Thus, Ed Asner can breathe easy for a couple more weeks, while I save my venom for a more appropriate example.

So, what kind of movie is it that can temporarily stay my verbal machete? A seriously entertaining one, is what. Being as harsh as I tend to be on films in general, especially considering that this one flies the accursed Disney banner, I think it says a lot that I spent the entirety of the film enjoying it just for what it was: an old-fashioned adventure flick, with new-fashioned flair to spice it up. Rarely have I been this regaled with a movie of so little substance since I last watched Erol Flynn in The Sea Hawk.

Plotwise, it’s fairly simple — formulaic, even –- but that’s kind of the beauty of it, because it’s allowed the other elements of the actual story-telling to shine through. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who was saved from shipwreck as a boy by the equally young Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) whom he’s been pining for ever after, enlists the help of renegade pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) when Miss Swann is abducted by cursed pirates led by the particularly wicked Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) with whom Sparrow of course has a score to settle. Turner discovers much about his own past in his chase after the damsel in distress, and the damsel in distress herself, well, she’s happy as long as she doesn’t have to wear any more restrictive clothing than necessary.

You don’t go to see a movie like this for the deep and powerful message interwoven into the subtext; you go for the cool swashbuckling scenes that borrowed a trick or two from Xena: Warrior Princess. You’re not there because of the new ground-breaking cinematic techniques being utilized; you’re there because the effects that are used have been done excellently in keeping with the fantastic nature of the story. You won’t be going to see the extraordinary Oscar-winning performance of a big-name actor; you’re there to salivate in large quantities over Johnny Depp with eyeliner on, or at the very least, to humour your girlfriend while she does this as you pray for another scene with a scantily-clad Kiera Knightley.

That said, PotC is pretty darn impressive with everything it offers up. If a movie is indeed more than the sum of its parts, it’s not difficult to see why this one did so well at the box-office. First and foremost, kudos must go to Depp, because apart from being delicious head-to-toe (even as a grungy pirate), his performance was just so much fun to watch. He really made the role his own, and absolutely stole the show with some of the most hilarious delivery of what would otherwise be awfully corny dialogue. Geoffrey Rush was no slouch either, playing the villainous Barbossa with enough menace to merit his own fleet of smart-ass parrots.

Orlando Bloom was given something of a pithy role in comparison to these two, and he did Musketeer out at the end (feathered hat and all), but he’s got a charm all his own that takes the mush out of the love-story, and replaces it with something a little bit more tolerable. I mean, sure, he’s doing it for the love of fair lady and all that, but Bloom’s no where near as insipid as DiCaprio in Titanic, for example. Though I have to admit that I did wuss out and turn all girlie for the happy ending, complete with great big sigh : “Awwwwww, I wish that were me,” the love story was not half as exploited as it could have been, and that in and of itself was a refreshing departure from Disney films in general.

I’m all for CGI, when the story isn’t a thin over-stretched excuse for the effects to occur in the first place, and fortunately in PotC this wasn’t the case. The effects, though suffering some logic problems in a few scenes, were spooky and well-done. I wouldn’t have minded a little bit more attention to detail in some cases, but overall, I really can’t complain. When it comes to artistry, even I can’t deny that the Mickey Mouse team’s got some talented people in their court, and it continues to show here.

The thing that really took the cake for me, though, was the action. This flick just never let up – rarely was there a dull moment, and all of it was beautifully choreographed and executed. The sword-fighting stands out above all else as the main draw in this category, and I can’t properly express what a treat it was to see it on the big screen. Putting the swordfights over the top was the almost continuous full-view of the fights as they were happening. I am so sick of clever camera techniques that prevent the audience from seeing whether or not it’s a stuntman doing the move, or the actual actor, and had PotC fallen prey to this evil, I probably would have chucked the movie into the don’t-bother-watching-it-twice pile. I was seriously aching for a remote-control so that I could rewind and watch the scene in the black-smith shop over-again, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do when I get it on DVD.

Last but not least, PotC takes itself with a mega-grain of salt. There is a consistent thread of humour throughout that pokes fun at both the genre itself, as well as the ride from which it originates. Without this element, I’m pretty sure PotC would have been one damn stale cracker, and nobody, least of all Polly, wants that.


Kyle’s rating: It’s absolutely fabulous as long as you don’t think about it

Kyle’s review: Let me tell you: I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean on the first day for the first showing, and it was crowded! I think it was the most crowded theater I’ve been in since moving to California. Even the midnight showing of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones had a couple extra seats. Maybe it’s because we were all Californians months away from thoughts of recall elections and putting The Terminator into office, so at the time we were most amused by a movie based on a beloved Disneyland ride. We had to see it! And no one minded that I now consider myself a Californian, even though I was born elsewhere! Who says I’m not as cool as Johnny Depp? No one, that’s who.

And the movie was good. See, I didn’t think it was great. People around me, friends and family: they all thought it was righteously fantastic. But I was a little unimpressed, maybe because they deal with some of the same locations over and over, and it all looked the same, and while I completely dug Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow and had interestingly creative thoughts about Keira Knightly and her corsets, I wanted the whole thing to be even more action-packed and old school pirate-y and full of crazy pirate debauchery. I guess I’m not only elitist, I’m a sicko as well.

I guess the thing is that the movie is really really exciting when you think about it, and I remember bits and pieces being exciting and of course I think Johnny Depp was fantastic and I already dressed up as Sparrow at my friend’s September Pirate Party (college is fun!), but I still want more out of the whole experience. It’s deliciously disposable fun and I’ll definitely buy the DVD when it hits stores on December 2, but maybe I thought they could have done more with ghostly pirates and a brilliantly eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow. I’m so on the fence. Dang.

You know what it is? I think if the movie had been a little bit shorter in its present levels of “coolness” and “Deppiosity,” I would think it was so incredible that I would dress up like a pirate daily, versus the once-a-week schedule I’m on now. But the movie is really long, and there are parts where it just seems to drag too much for my tastes. Either give us more pirate insanity (and maybe a few more shots lifted from the nostalgically comforting Disney ride) or cut out 20 minutes of excess reaction nonsense and nonessential pirate wackiness, and I’ll bow down uncontrollably and possibly pierce my ear for real with a big gold ring. But as POTA is, it’s good but not great. Definitely see it, because it’s worth your time. But next time, let’s have some more Deppiliciousness, please? And then provide us guys with some free therapy in the lobby to help us get over our Depp worship, yeah? Thanks!


PoolMan’s rating: Consider me timbers shivered.

PoolMan’s review: Ah, Disneyland. At once both the Happiest Place On Earth and the Ice Cold Fortress of Corporate Doom. I’ve been twice, once at age 13, and again at about 21. And while the business antics of the tyrannical Mouse House chill me to the very bone, that park… that park…

The first thing you’ll notice about Disneyland is that it’s always crowded. I mean, dur, but no matter when you go there (little known fact — the busiest day of the year in the park is the day after Christmas), there are hordes of hyperactive children who are absolutely a-tingle with the energy of the place, followed by sallow-eyed adults, barely keeping up with their offspring. There are little people to step on everywhere! And believe you me, this presents a problem for yours truly.

But despite the evil machinations of Disney itself and the nonstop flood of humans you have to wade through to actually enjoy the park, Disneyland remains a cache of great memories for me. I love the place. It’s basically one of the world’s biggest playpens, an enormous space devoted almost solely to the entertainment of kids and kidlike adults, and it’s awash in a sugary, plastic happiness.

But way off in a corner of the park, in New Orleans Square, lie the least child-friendly (and, how ironically, most PoolMan-friendly) attractions in the whole place. The first being the Haunted Mansion, home of various beheadings, ghosts, and generally spooky fare such as spirits singing in four part harmony. The second, and for the longest time my favourite part of the park, was Pirates of the Carribean.

Which, in a roundabout way, finally brings us to The Curse of the Black Pearl. I liked the Pirates movie enough to use my company’s annual “Merry Christmas, go buy a turkey” gift certificate on a copy of the DVD instead of the bird. Yes, you heard it here first, PoolMan traded poultry for Johnny Depp and a crew of zombie pirates. I’m nothing if not shrewd.

Pirates is just out and out fun. While almost none of the movie makes an awful lot of sense in the logic department, the action is great fun and nearly non-stop, all the while giving us an army of scenery-chewing performances from the likes of Depp and Geoffrey Rush (who makes just a perfect “evil” pirate captain, as opposed to Depp’s “good” pirate captain). Everybody is just dialed right into their character, even wooden old Orlando Bloom. If nothing else, he’s a great straight man, and I absolutely never fail to laugh when he suddenly breaks character to impersonate Jack Sparrow’s sun-baked madness.

It’s deep like a puddle, sure, but when were pirate movies ever Tolstoy? It’s a modern day salute to the campy, goofy fun the action movies of the past used to have, while keeping a slick, modern set of effects that directors of days gone by could only dream about. I promise, you’ll be capping your teeth with gold and teaching your parrot to call in sick for you in no time (I do it all the time).

Fresh air, sea gulls, mutiny -- it's GOOD to be the pirate!
Fresh air, sea gulls, mutiny — it’s GOOD to be the pirate!


  • No opening credits, only the movie title!
  • Oodles of references to the original ride
  • The tattoo Orlando Bloom received during the filming of the LotR trilogy (the Elvish number 9) is always covered by some piece of clothing, or rag tied around his right wrist.
  • Depp’s reference to the British comedy program “The Fast Show”.
  • Mickey Mouse ears in the clouds….or maybe I just ate one too many gummi bears?
  • The hair and clothing of a cursed pirate are not much affected by water currents, even when said pirate is travelling completely underwater along the sea floor.
  • The historically accurate Jolly Roger the Black Pearl flies (skull and crossed swords – as flown by Jack Rackham)
  • Maybe I (Alex) just noticed this because I watch too many time-period flicks…. I only include the IMDB error write-up here because I did honest-to-goodness notice it myself: Elizabeth Swann’s maid fills a bed warmer with red-hot coals and then places the warmer at the feet of Elizabeth, who is lying in bed. That’s not the way bed warmers were used. They held warm, not red-hot, coals, and were placed in bed before one turned in and removed before the sleeper lay down. If used as shown in the movie, they would have barbecued one’s feet.
  • How often all the ships (the Interceptor, the Dauntless, the Black Pearl) change hands?
  • Bird poop… how lucky can one guy get?
  • In the scene where Jack and Will walk underwater in the overturned boat… they must be wearing heavy boots, because that boat should definitely be floating towards the surface with that much air trapped in it!
  • That’s the longest full moon I’ve ever seen. It goes on for days.
  • Tonight… you sleep with the PIGGIES!
  • I think Will found the largest hat in all the Spanish Main.
  • End credits: there’s a quick shot of the monkey, Jack, zombifying himself again. Guess he likes the curse after all!
  • Many of the crew got seasick while filming. In order to avoid this, Kiera Knightly took a travel-sickness pill and fell fast asleep instead.
  • Johnny Depp said that his slurred accent was inspired in part by the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and the Looney Tunes’ character Pepe Le Pew, though he emphasized in interviews that it was not an impersonation (of Richards).
  • Johnny Depp’s character, Captain Jack, is portrayed as having gold teeth in the film. These are real and Depp had his dentist implant those and others into his mouth for the production. Jerry Bruckheimer thought there were too many and asked him to remove all but a few.
  • The movie’s world premiere was located at Disneyland Park at the Disneyland Resort in California, home to the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, on June 28, 2003. This was the first ever movie premiere at Disneyland.
  • With the exception of the “Sparrow” tattoo (which is real), clothing and smears of charcoal were used to conceal Johnny Depp’s numorous tattoos.
  • Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski wanted to use the massive water tank in Baja, Mexico used for Titanic and Pearl Harbor, but Peter Weir’s film The Master and Commander had the tank booked during the time Pirates was scheduled to shoot.
  • This is the first Disney movie to receive a higher-than-PG rating (PG-13). Not surprising, considering how violent the movie actually is.

Groovy Quotes

Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so I must do nothin’. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the Pirate’s Code to apply, and you’re not. And thirdly, the Code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.

Will Turner: You cheated!
Jack Sparrow: [shrugs] Pirate!

Mr. Gibbs: Then, on the fourth day, he roped himself a couple of sea turtles and made a raft.
Will Turner: He roped himself a couple of sea turtles.
Mr. Gibbs: Aye. Sea turtles.
Will Turner: What did he use for rope?
Jack Sparrow: [from beside them] Human hair. [pause] From my back.

Jack Sparrow: We’ve reached a special place… Spiritually… ecumenically… grammatically.

Elizabeth Swann: Captain Barbossa, I am here to negotiate the cessation of hostilities against Port Royal.
Barbossa: There be a lot of long words in there, miss. We’re naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?
Elizabeth Swann: I want you to leave and never come back.
Barbossa: I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means “no.”

Jack Sparrow: [after Will draws his sword] ] Put it away, son. Its not worth you getting beat again.
Will Turner: You didn’t beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I’d kill you.
Jack Sparrow: That’s not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?

Will Turner: Where’s Elizabeth?
Jack Sparrow: She’s safe, just like I promised. She’s all set to marry Norrington, just like she promised. And you get to die for her, just like you promised. So we’re all men of our word really… except for Elizabeth, who is in fact, a woman.

Jack Sparrow: If you were waiting for the opportune moment, that was it.

Governor Swann: [about the corset] I’m told it’s the latest fashion in London.
Elizabeth Swann: Well, women in London must have learned not to breathe!

Barbossa: How did you get off that island?
Jack Sparrow: When you marooned me on that god forsaken spit of land, you forgot one very important thing, mate: I’m Captain Jack Sparrow.

Pirate: I’m gonna teach you the meaning of pain!
Elizabeth Swann: You like pain? [hits pirate in the head with a pole] Try wearing a corset.

Barbossa: You best start believing in ghost stories Miss Turner. You’re in one!

Mr. Gibbs: It’s bad luck to wake a man when he’s sleeping!
Jack Sparrow: Fortunately, I know how to counter it: the man who does the waking buys a drink for the man who was sleeping, then the man who was sleeping drinks the drink while listening to a proposition from a man who did the waking.

Norrington: No additional shot nor powder, a compass that doesn’t point north, [looks at Jack’s sword] and I half expected it to be made of wood. You are without a doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of.
Jack Sparrow: But you have heard of me.

Jack Sparrow: Do us a favor… I know it’s difficult for you… but please, stay here, and try not to do anything… stupid.

Will Turner: We’re going to steal a ship? That ship?
Jack Sparrow: Commandeer! We’re going to commandeer that ship. Nautical term.

Will Turner: This is either madness… or brilliance.
Jack Sparrow: It’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.

Pintel: Down to the depths with them that thought of “parley”.
Jack Sparrow: That would be the French.

Jack Sparrow: Elizabeth… It would never have worked between us, darling. I’m sorry. Will… Nice hat.

Jack Sparrow: Stop! No, not good! What are you doing? Not Good! You’re burning all the food, the shade… the RUM!
Elizabeth Swann: Yes, the rum is gone.
Jack Sparrow: Why is the rum gone?!
Elizabeth Swann: One, because rum is a vile drink that turns even the most respectable men into complete scoundrels. Two, that signal is over a thousand feet high. The entire royal navy is out looking for me; do you really think that there is EVEN the slightest chance that they won’t see it?!
Jack Sparrow: But why is the rum gone?!

Captain Jack Sparrow: Stop blowing holes in my ship!

Barbossa: Why, thank ye, Jack.
Captain Jack Sparrow: You’re welcome.
Barbossa: Oh, not you. We named the monkey Jack.

Ragetti: This is just like what the Greeks done at Troy. ‘Cept they was in a horse, not dresses. Wooden ‘orse.

If you liked this movie, try these:


    • @ Sitting – If there’s special day, like Pirate Day, we try to dig up a bunch retro reviews that are themed around it. Otherwise, it’s either random or pulled from the forum thread where people request certain reviews to be reposted.

  1. Three cheers to the only movie in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy that was actually fun to watch.

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