Fun with Franchises: Final Thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
All right… we’ve watched the film, talked about it, had fun with it, and then we went and listed our favorite images from the film yesterday. Now all that’s left is to finish up with what we actually thought about the film as a whole.
This is our space to go over what we liked and didn’t like about each film we watch for Fun with Franchises. We talk about specific things as we get to them during the articles, and we’ll mention our general thoughts during them, but we don’t really ever get to sit and do broad strokes during the articles. So this is why we do these Final Thoughts. We get to take a step back and talk about the films as a whole, rather than discussing specific scenes or images. We’ll talk about how we felt about the film, how we liked it as a film, how we liked it as a member of its franchise, and where we think it falls within that franchise.
Again, it’s not very complicated, but it is a place to find out what we actually thought about certain movies, since, while we’re having fun with them in the articles, it may get difficult to tell sometimes. Because we’ll just rip things to shreds for fun, even if we love them.
So here are our final thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
Final Thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
What a great movie. I know I joked throughout Twilight that whatever followed it was going to look worthy of an Oscar — or a Nobel Prize, for that matter — by comparison, but there’s probably a strong case to be made for this film to have won an Oscar purely on merit.
The most surprising thing was that I didn’t go into this with an especially high opinion of the film. When it came out, I loved it. Saw it two or three times in theaters with various people. It was one of those, “You haven’t seen it yet? Yeah, I could go again.” Because tickets cost like $6, and I was a big man who had just graduated from middle school. I even got the DVD for my birthday that year, and was pretty stoked about that. But somewhere over the years, I either forgot all of my youthful enthusiasm or passively came to think of it more critically because it’s a Disney movie aimed at a younger audience. Either way, I was going into this expecting the B+ experience to confirm my suspicions that this movie wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it being, and I was wrong.
It’s almost entirely Depp. Knightley’s good to look at, and doesn’t do half bad herself, and Bloom fits in this role because his character isn’t supposed to be nearly as appealing. I’d almost call him a walking plot device. And exposition. Can’t forget that he’s the pack mule for most of the expository dialogue. But other than Depp, the only two characters who really go above and beyond are Rush and McNally. I love both of them and their characters. But even if I make that distinction, I can’t help but to be satisfied or even pleasantly surprised by Jack Davenport and Jonathan Pryce. They all did it well.
Another mark that I really have to put out there is that this is the first franchise first movie we’ve done that wasn’t guaranteed a sequel from the onset. I should backtrack there a bit; Star Wars wasn’t locked in as a franchise yet, but it was TOTALLY made as though it was. You don’t call a movie “Episode IV” unless you want to make it explicit that there’ll be more. They gave it the “Curse of the Black Pearl” tag in hopes that it would do well and possibly get greenlit for another movie, but it wasn’t at all guaranteed, nor was it really expected. This movie works perfectly on its own. You could end it right here and have nothing remaining unsaid that needed to be. We don’t need to know if Will and Elizabeth get married, we don’t need to know Jack’s backstory, we don’t need to know what becomes of Norrington, and we can rest assured that Jack and his crew of miscreants go back to looting and plundering and being lovable pirates on the Black Pearl. It all gets wrapped up in a way that isn’t unnecessarily neat or blatantly open-ended.
Other than that, I could talk about how the writing’s on point (in terms of blockbuster writing) and how there are so many amazing shots to see in this film, but then, you saw those in our shots article, and in the articles themselves. I find that even the things that would typically annoy me, like the moronic pairs of pirates and redcoats for comic relief — I end up enjoying them at least somewhat, in spite of myself.
So this is very interesting. It’s a franchise and a movie that I wasn’t thinking about even a little bit when we started Fun With Franchises, but by every measure, it’s one of the single strongest franchise films — particularly because of its standalone value and its appeal to all age groups — that we’ve ever watched on this blog.
My Final Thoughts:
I think this film is perfect. I really do. I think this is one of the best pure action-adventure movies to come out of Hollywood in the last fifteen years. It’s fun, it looks amazing, the writing is really good (despite some plot things, but that’s to be expected. Compare the rest of the films in the franchise to this one before you pass judgment), and Sparrow is one of the best characters of the past 30 years.
I don’t really know what else to say here. I think the film is one of those perfect anomalies that happens every once in a while. It was completely under the radar, could have been a huge misfire, but they managed to do everything right. The casting is note perfect (even Orlando Bloom, who needs to be there to make Depp look as good as he does), and Depp is like Downey was in the first Iron Man in this movie. In fact, there are a lot of parallels to be had there. The big differences being that the first Iron Man is not nearly as good a movie as this is, and Depp was already on solid career ground before this. (In fact, you might say this ruined him. Since now he’s doing all these franchises rather than take the risks he used to take. Downey’s kind of the same way now as well, though.) But his performance is what really makes this movie work. Without him, this movie isn’t nearly as good.
And then you add to it the way Verbinski shot this — the images are amazing, he doesn’t get cute with his camera and do handheld shit, he takes time to make compositions, he doesn’t rely too heavily on stupid jokes and gags, the way modern action movies do, and he really tells his story in the best way possible. Look at the way the introduction of Sparrow is handled. It’s absolutely perfect. Not a single word, and never do they wink at the audience. It’s things like that, which, in the hands of a lesser (or… different) director might not have come off as well as this did.
I’ve always said that this was a sneakily underrated franchise. Sure, narratively, they go off the rails in the last two, but the franchise remains fun at all times and really doesn’t get ridiculous until after the third one. In a way, you can match this to The Thin Man franchise, where — the first one is perfect, the next two aren’t as perfect, but are still really good, and after that it starts to go off the rails, but since you still have the central performance (or in the Thin Man franchise’s case, performances) to ground the whole thing, it continues to be worthwhile throughout.
I’d argue that this franchise is a lot better than most others because it’s always watchable, its looks incredible, it’s fun as hell, even if it does get crazy, and the Sparrow character is so good that it almost transcends the material at times.
But this film in particular is actually quite perfect. It really is.
– – – – – – – – – –
Tomorrow, we start Dead Man’s Chest.
(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)