The review of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

By Jeff Kintz

      As of the last few years, pirates have once again emerged into the public eye.  Only this time, instead of stealing loot from victims in order to survive, they are drawing people into the theaters to rekindle their ideological ways.  After all, who would want to resist a good pirate story?  Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Director Gore Verbinski teamed together with Walt Disney Pictures after they realized that the audiences still love to hear stories about the infamous Blackbeard, the pirate, and Black Bart Roberts.  After researching the topic of pirates, Walt Disney Pictures finally gave permission to create Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which was based after the ride attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.  The cast was hired; it ranged from Johnny Depp, playing Captain Jack Sparrow, to Geoffrey Rush, playing Barbossa.  Jack Sparrow once was the captain of a ship called the Black Pearl until Barbossa abandoned him on an island in the Caribbean.  At the same time, the crew on the Black Pearl suffered from a curse that was placed upon them by a former pirate named Bootstrap Bill.  The curse that was placed upon the Black Pearl does not allow the shipmates to die, drink, and eat, so they will forever live a life of starvation and thirst.  Barbossa gathered his crew of low-life buccaneers and set sail to find the direct descendant blood relative of Bootstrap and his missing medallion because he is sick of living when he should be dead.  But thanks to Jack Sparrow, their attempts wound up at a dead end.  I chose to review the frightening tale of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl because the professional editing, visual effects, action, and sound will continue to remind us of a famous Disney quote, “Dead men tell no tales.” 

      The editing in this film is very well done and it helps explain the premise of the story.  One of the most important pieces of information in the film occurs when a young lady named Elizabeth Swan dreams about an experience she had in the past.  As the young Elizabeth was standing on the deck of a British vessel drifting through the fog, she noticed a boy named Will Turner, son of Bootstrap Bill, floating in the water.  After realizing the ship he came from was set on fire, she pulled Will out of the ocean and removed a skull embroidered medallion from his neck.  While Elizabeth was examining Will’s medallion, the camera focused on the burnt ship in the background as it sailed through the dense fog in eerie calmness with a pirates flag attached to the highest mast.  A sudden close up of the cross-bone plagued flag suddenly blackened the screen until Elizabeth popped up from her bed twenty years later with a light sweat on her forehead.  Unfortunately, for film length purposes, some scenes had to be cut down or deleted from the final version of the film. One specific scene titled All Is Well had to be cut out of the film because it did nothing to advance the story.  The twenty-four second clip showed Jack and Will debating how to leave Tortuga while walking to a nearby tavern to meet with a man named Joshamee Gibbs.   As Jack and Will walked through the musty village street filled with drunken and dim-witted pirates, a man was getting dunked in a well by pirates as a tribute to the popular Disney ride.  Another clip that was taken out of the film due to time constraints is called Good Luck.  In the thirty-three second scene, a parrot flew over a chubby, gullible British guard named Mullroy and pooped on him while he was waiting for Jack Sparrow to get hung.  Mullroy’s young and uptight partner, Murtogg, grinned at the incident and wished Mullroy good luck at getting the stain out of his red coat.  But much to Mullroy’s chagrin, the parrot pooped on Murtogg’s face too.  Thanks to the editors’ creative decisions on what scenes should be used and where they should go, the audience can have a deep understanding of what to expect in the film. 

      However, before film pieces are left on the editing room floor, visual effects artists ranging from wardrobe to set designers must make the characters and settings believable through colors.  As many people may know, all of the colors of the rainbow, including black and white, can represent a mood.  For example, the Black Pearl was a ship that contained many different hues of black to show that it had been abandoned and was still able to have power over others with its intimidating and grim colors.  The wardrobe that Jack Sparrow wore consisted of black and red articles of clothing to represent his personality.  The red in his wardrobe showed his passion to succeed and become the captain of the Black Pearl once again, and the black reminded everyone that even though he came off as a good guy, he was still a ruthless pirate.  Camera angles can also be used to show a character’s power or weakness.  A great example of this used in the film was when Barbossa took his crew into a dreary cave filled with sparkling gold treasure surrounded by a moat of water.  To show Barbossa’s power, he was seen walking on a higher platform while his crew stood on the normal ground level watching him preach his plans.  Another great camera angle was used to represent Jack Sparrow at the beginning of the film.  We saw Jack Sparrow’s face up close for the first time and then slowly the camera began to zoom out until we realized that his ship was sinking.  By the time Jack arrived at the dock, he just stepped off of the highest part of the ship as it sank to the bottom of the ocean.  This action might have symbolized Jack’s lack of ability to be the captain of any ship.  Regardless, the people who work on the sets and make the costumes should get more recognition because they are able to help set the scene by telling a story through colors and unique camera angles.  

      However, even when a color represents a character or object, the audience expects to see a lot of great action.  Believe me, this film will not disappoint any of the action seekers.  One of the best action sequences occurred at the end of the film when Barbossa and Jack Sparrow engaged in a sword fight.  The reason why this scene stands out is because every time Jack and Barbossa fought under the moonlight shining through the cracks in the cave, they turned into skeletons!  Everyone who has been on the ride at Disneyland and Disney World may also recognize a scene from the movie where the pirates ransack and set a village on fire in their pursuit to find the medallion.  There were even numerous cannon ball battles between The Black Pearl and the Interceptor, Jack’s newest ship.  At one point, Jack’s crewmen ran out of cannon balls, so they had to shoot silverware.  One of the forks that was launched out of the cannon lodged itself into the wooden eye of a crewman on the Black Pearl.  However, my favorite battle scene had to be when Jack Sparrow and Will Turner were having a sword fight in a blacksmith shop and they continued to fight after they were launched up into the rafters of the ceiling.  Even though Will did a lot of the battling, the fight ended when a drunk man  woke up and bashed a glass bottle over Jack’s head.  The scene that most other movie-goers will remember for a long time is when Barbossa’s crew turned into skeletons and walked under water to attack the British army that tried to surround them during their meeting in the cave.  But with the advanced technology that was used to create this special effect and all of the battles that had to be choreographed, time and motivation from everyone who worked on the film was mandatory.  These scenes could not have been as beautiful as they were if the animators and stunt coordinators did not put all of their passion and efforts into their work.         

      But is it really the colors and action that make a film successful?  No.  One overlooked detail that helps set a mood for a film is sound.  The various types of sound effects in this film range from a cup gently being placed on a table, creaking wood, the blades of swords smacking against each other, water crashing up against a ship, and cannon balls crashing through walls.  Thanks to the extraordinary talents of composer Klaus Badelt and Hanz Zimmer, the musical soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean un-questionably brings the film to a whole new level.  The music in the film sets the tone for what is going on or about to happen.  For example when the movie starts, the orchestra playing a Celtic Flair with the Cello could be heard.  But as the ship that Elizabeth was on drifted towards the camera and through the dense fog,  the enjoyable Celtic music faded away as bass took over to play a more dark and serious tune to symbolize precaution.  As Elizabeth looked at the pirate flag on the burnt ship across the sea, the music reached a sudden fever pitch to pass fear onto the viewers.  The music in the film is always present during the sword fights and plays at a fast pace to keep up with the action.  When Jack was about to be hung by the British army for being a pirate at the end of the movie, drums are heard being played in a solemn, revolutionary style as if Jack were to meet his maker.  Of course many of the Pirates of the Caribbean fans may also be happy to notice that Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan sing “Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho A Pirates Life For Me” after they are banished on an island dancing in a drunken stupor. 

      This movie is truly unique because most actors in other action films have never turned into skeletons under the moonlight while having a sword fight with their enemy at the same time.  The technology that was used to create the effect and allow the skeletons to move in tune with the actors is brand new.  In order for this effect to be created, the actors had to wear a suit covered with censors so their body movements could be transmitted to a special computer that would record the data.  After the data had been recorded, the animators were able to create the actors’ skeleton form on the computer as if it were a connect-the-dots puzzle.  Before this technology was available, many animators had to draw the actors movements and facial expressions before they were animated on computers.  Overall, I would give this film an A+ because of all the detailed work that went into making it.  I believe that everyone will enjoy this movie especially if they have been on the ride and understand its humor.  This movie definitely clears up any confusion about the Disneyland attraction  and explains why the characters in the ride are terrorizing the citizens while looking for “The Cursed Treasure.”  So if there are any pirate, action, or Disney lovers out there, this film is highly recommended to see.  After all, this frightening tale of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was created with professional editing, visual effects, action, and sound to remind us that “Dead men tell no tales.”