Pirates of the Caribbean Series Review – The Curse of the Black Pearl & Dead Man’s Chest

25 Dec

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are modern day Hollywood masterpieces that hearken back to an adventurous time of swashbuckling film making. One can not help but think of adventure classics like Sinbad, the Sailor when watching these movies. They’re a lot of fun, but the series itself can be labeled as uneven, so this series review will take a look at the ups and downs of this billion dollar franchise.

Let’s start with The Curse of the Black Pearl.

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The city of Port Royal gets flipped upside down once the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives. After the mysterious Black Pearl attacks the city in search of a missing piece of cursed Aztec gold, the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is taken by the ship’s Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Swann’s love interest, blacksmith William Turner (Orlando Bloom) breaks Sparrow out of jail and the two of them set out to find this cursed crew and save Elizabeth, but as a pirate, Jack has an agenda of his own.

This is one of the most fun movies I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and it seems to get better every time I watch it. I watched it for the first time in a couple years for this review, and it was such a fun ride. The action and comedy play off each other so well with the help of an excellent cast and crew. Jack Sparrow has become one of the most famous characters of all time, thanks mostly to Depp’s fantastic performance. Rush is also a great villain and seems to love saying his ridiculously over the top pirate sayings. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom do just fine, but nothing within the realms of Depp and Rush.

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The effects are also really fantastic and was made in a very interesting way. Whenever the cursed crew of the Black Pearl enter the moon light, they become these decaying skeletons. In order to get that effect to match the actions of the actual people in the scenes, shots were filmed with the pirate actors and then without them so their skeletons could be digitally added for the final product. A lot of work to match facial features and movement was another challenge that had to be overcome in order to get the best looking animation. It’s a scientific art form that I can’t even begin to understand and it makes me respect this movie and the work that went into it so much more.

The entire tone is reminiscent of modern films like The Mummy. It’s action packed, but it’s light hearted and has good intentions. There are some pretty scary scenes on the Pearl but the movie in entirety is a great family adventure. Hollywood doesn’t produce classics like these all the time any more, at least, not like they used to. This is a fantastic effort by Disney and Bruckheimer Studios of making a big-budgeted classic that nearly everyone can enjoy. If you haven’t seen this by any chance, check it out. I guarantee your entertainment.

Of course, there has to be a sequel to something that makes loads of money at the box office, but this isn’t really a bad thing at all. In fact the sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, is a good movie. The bad news is that even though it is a top notch second entry, it’s plagued with a very big problem.

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Some time after the events of the first film, William Turner and Elizabeth Swann are finally to be married. That is, until Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) arrests them both and sentences them to death unless Will can find Jack and bring his compass back to Port Royal. Will soon finds Jack, but gets caught up in Jack’s mission to kill Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and be free of a debt he made Jones years before. Add Elizabeth and the disgraced Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) and you’ve got a mosh pit of motives that all clash and bring about an end to the solidity of alliances.

This is a very difficult movie to summarize in a paragraph. There are so many characters with different plots and subplots that, if you don’t watch out, you may lose track of. I wouldn’t call this movie confusing, but it is packed. There’s a lot that happens in the broad range of two and a half hours, and even that’s not enough time. This is really the only problem with this movie, but it weighs the movie down big time. Not enough time is spent on certain parts of the story because if it was, then the movie would stretch on for a very long time.

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I will say that everything else about Dead Man’s Chest surpasses its predecessor. This movie is a lot darker and adult friendly. Bill Nighy is absolutely menacing as Davy Jones and really brings the myth to life and more. The CGI and special effects in this movie add to this as well, and not just with Jones. The crew of the Flying Dutchman looks fantastic in their different stages of transformation into whatever it is they are becoming. Barnacles and shells make up most of their bodies giving them a look that I’ve never seen before.

Although I’ve complained about how the story is presented, it is a lot better and complicated than The Curse of the Black Pearl. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley have much more time to make their characters more than just the audience’s eyes and ears, and actually get to really be involved in the piracy of the other characters. Like I said before, alliances are shattered and some are strengthened, making this a movie you must pay attention during or you’ll lose who wants what and who is in league with who.

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While Dead Man’s Chest has the opportunity to be the superior movie, the presentation and pacing bear too much weight to surpass The Curse of the Black Pearl. It has a great story and a lot of characters that are getting more and more fleshed out, but it just becomes a mess. It’s certainly not a movie to be missed and is a good effort by Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer, but don’t expect the joy you had watching the first movie.

So we got a start to the series, but we still have two more. Look out for my review of At World’s End and On Stranger Tides.

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