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

by Nick Kush
The Curse of the Black Pearl

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been on the minds of pop culture ever since The Curse of the Black Pearl dropped anchor in 2003 (pirate puns are necessary for this review).  Who would have thought that a film franchise based off of a theme park ride would go on to gross over one billion dollars multiple times?  With Dead Men Tell No Tales coming to theaters over Memorial Day Weekend, what better time than now to take a look back at the original that has become beloved by so many around the world.  The following review will be spoiler free.


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is directed by Gore Verbinski and stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley.  We follow a group of swashbuckling pirates in the 17th century led by Jack Sparrow (Depp).  Although Sparrow helms the Black Pearl, the ship is quickly taken from him by his nemesis, Captain Barbossa.  In a related event, Barbossa and his crew raid the town of Port Royal, kidnapping Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), the Governor’s daughter, in the process.  Now it’s up to Elizabeth’s childhood friend (and prospective lover) Will Turner (Bloom) and Sparrow to retrieve her and get the Black Pearl back.  All the while, our two heroes learn of a curse that is over the pirates, turning them all into skeletons in the moonlight.

Johnny Depp had certainly already established himself as a fantastic actor before The Curse of the Black Pearl hit theaters in 2003 with films like Ed Wood, Donnie Brasco, and Edward Scissorhands.  However, his first turn as Jack Sparrow might have been the performance that firmly placed him as an A-lister in Hollywood.  On the downside, it was also probably the start of his nutty characters that have since driven people nuts.

Surprisingly, Jim Carrey was actually considered for the role of Jack Sparrow, but his role in Bruce Almighty directly interfered with the production of Pirates of the Caribbean.  While that would have been a sight to see, that scheduling conflict certainly led to another classic film.

What I Liked

As for the movie as a whole, there’s definitely a lot to enjoy.

What stands out from the outset of the film is its massive scale and grandeur.  When the year 2003 rolled around, CGI was still very hit or miss, requiring the most skilled of technicians to render a seemingly real image.  So, while expensive, the sets and costume design of the film give it a dirty, lived-in feel that gives each character an extra bit of enthusiasm.  Most of the characters wore genuine prosthetic body parts and color contacts while also getting their teeth died to look like they were stricken with scurvy.  When combined with incredible sets that entail gorgeous, massive boats that battle on the high seas, you’ve got yourself a beautiful looking movie.

the curse of the black pearl

image via Is This Movie Suitable

The movie does get into trouble when it gets bogged down in its CGI elements later in the film once the skeleton pirates come out to play, but it’s not enough to unseat the majestic sets within this fully realized world.  In the most bizarre fashion, there’s a tinge of realism in the feeling of Pirates.  

What I Liked…Continued

We all know how great Johnny Depp is in this film, so I’ll skip that discussion.  It’s already been done more times than anyone can count.  However, many point to Depp as the calling card of the franchise.  Personally, the true heart lies within Hans Zimmer’s perfect score.

A sign of a great score is how recognizable it is.  When you hear Zimmer’s swashbuckling theme, you instantly associate it with the Pirates franchise.  Although the term is too often used with this franchise (by my count I’ve already used it twice), the theme perfect encapsulates the concept of “swashbuckling.”  In its quieter moments, it moseys from beat to beat, almost feeling improvisational like the pirates’ actions in the film.  However, once the action set pieces begin, that same tune explodes into an eardrum-blasting extravaganza.  It takes on a whole different feel in these situations.

the curse of the black of the pearl

image via The Guardian

What I Didn’t Like

One thing that has always bothered about this film is the differences in acting methods.  Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp understand that this type of film requires an over the top performance.  They ham it up with glee, creating very fun characters in the process.

However, actors like Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley feel like they’re in an entirely different film.  I enjoy these two as performers in most of their others work, especially Knightley who is pretty fantastic.  But, both these actors feel like they’re portraying a character in a classic Shakespearean drama when they should be going toe to toe with Rush and Depp.  I’m aware that they both have ties to English aristocracy in the film, but c’mon, live a little!  Have some fun!  Everyone else in the movie is having a great time.

What I Didn’t Like…Continued

The Curse of the Black Pearl clocks in at about two hours and twenty-three minutes.  Personally, a movie about pirates taking to the high seas should be a maximum of two hours.  There is way too much fluff to this film.  Too often does the film have its pirates going to certain locations and leaving those areas only to return later on.  Couldn’t we shrink this story down to feel more streamlined?

the curse of the black pearl

image via Mr. Brown’s Movie Breakdown


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is by no means a perfect movie.  It’s bloated run time and spotty performances are a testament to that.  However, above all else, Pirates is just fun.  Too many movies fail in this respect.  It’s certainly worthy of a lower spot on the IMDb Top 250 list.  It gets a B+.  The film is currently streaming on Netflix so go and watch the film that started the Pirates craze before you check out Dead Men Tell No Tales.  

Thanks for reading!  How do you feel about Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl?  Comment down below with your thoughts!

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Millennial Movies May 24, 2017 - 3:58 pm

Nice work. I love this movie. I actually enjoyed Number 4 for what it was given it removed a lot of the bullshit. I am excited for the new one. marketing has been strong for it.

Nick Kush May 24, 2017 - 6:48 pm

We shall see! Fingers crossed!

RosemaryMarie May 24, 2017 - 11:59 am

I agree. I think your assessment is spot on!

Nick Kush May 24, 2017 - 12:19 pm

Thanks so much! Glad I Have your approval!


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