PG-13 for spooky spooky pirate skeletons. It's family-friendly horror. My six-year-old is no longer an appropriate gauge for what is too scary for kids. He's terrified of everything, but this was nothing for him. I don't get it. Regardless, the Pirates movies are supposed to be just a little bit scary. There's violence and death throughout. But a lot of it is CG horror, which has that uncanny valley element that may make it less scary. Also, there's boozing throughout. That probably bad news for children.
DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski
*long exhale* There's so much overwhelming anxiety behind writing this blog. Since the sequels came out, I always referred to The Curse of the Black Pearl as the only movie that really needs to exist. While I'm part of the minority that quasi-enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, I always used Curse of the Black Pearl as what a big-budget Disney film should be. And maybe it was my mindset when watching this. Maybe it is the fact that I've seen this movie probably a half-a-dozen times. Maybe it's the fact that the runtime is about two-and-a-half hours, but I haven't been so bored watching a movie than watching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
I keep swirling around this drain. When something reaches a certain degree of cultural permeability, when it is the cultural zeitgeist, something goes off in my brain. Usually these things are so amazing that these films actually deserve to be discussed. I mean, I was blown away by The Dark Knight opening night. But I can't even imagine sitting down to watch that movie right now. There's something about something being so universally loved that raises my critical stakes so much. With something like Pirates of the Caribbean, I always thought that the first movie was fun, but I never really got on board the cultural obsession. I think the same thing happened to me with the Harry Potter fandom. I get what makes these movies appealing. They just don't knock my socks off. It's probably what the Marvel skeptics probably believe, despite that those movies are nearly perfect.
But what made me so bored this time? It's not like I watch Pirates so often that I have the film memorized. Heck, a lot of this came across as a surprise to me. Part of me was actually a little confused about the plot. Admittedly, there's an element of me almost falling asleep watching the movie this time. But maybe something just doesn't hold up about the first Pirates movie from 2003. It's been a minute, after all, since these movies were in vogue. Sure, there was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales that came out three or so years ago. But that didn't exactly spark this whole return to the world of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Maybe it is because I get the joke. These movies are about Captain Jack Sparrow. I don't know where we stand on Johnny Depp anymore. There keep on being more incidents that either paint him as a monster or the victim, so I'm going to stay away from that interpretation of his character. But these are movies with a really complex mythology. My kids, who absolutely adored this movie so much that two nights later, we watched the even more boring sequel, kept on asking me what was going on until they abandoned all pretense of actually watching the film only to jump off of tables screaming "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow." It's got a lot of expositional dialogue. In fact, it has way too much exposition. There's a lot to swallow for what should be a simple story. From what I understand, these pirates stole cursed treasure and now they can't die. They have to return that treasure to become mortal again, but it also involves blood?
What's really bizarre about the plot is that it is a really complex telling of a story that really has pretty limited consequences. Again, I was getting really sleepy the further we got into the movie. After the twentieth "Dad, what's going on?", I quit trying to simplify the story and allowed the CG nonsense to take over. When they jumped off tables, I just let the film be popcorn and abandoned my objective critical watching of this movie. It's like Disney knew that they wanted to make a billion of these movies because so much mythology for the series is being set up in this film. We had to know that Bootstrap Bill was going to show up in part 2 because it seemed like they couldn't stop bringing him up and his mysterious past.
Maybe they knew that Captain Jack was something to be marketed. I get it. Johnny Depp, with his Keith Richards impression, is charismatic as heck. He's funny. He's got some fantastic lines coupled with perfect line deliveries. He pulls off action. I remember that the first time I saw these movies, I was enthralled by the insane stunt pieces in the film. Coupled with Orlando Bloom as a straight man, the story basically tells itself, regardless of how little sense the movie makes. The thing that doesn't quite ring as well as it should is Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann. Swann has the potential to be this absolutely amazing character in this movie. The sequel does a better job with her, but she has just a bit too much damsel-in-distress to her. It's odd, because she doesn't read as such. But it also could be the problem of too many alpha characters. Jack Sparrow draws all the attention, but the protagonist is technically Will Turner. So where does that leave Elizabeth Swann? She's the romantic lead, but that's really not fair to the character at all.
I kind of want to end on the idea that I know that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has to be a good movie. It has to. I've seen it enough times and enjoyed it enough times to say that. But it also might be something that hasn't aged well. Maybe I'm just a drastically different person than I used to be. It all seems like loud noise and theme songs. That's not something I'm all that interested in watching. But I know that I have another three hour grind to get through with what is probably my least favorite in the series. But at least I'm close to closing up another franchise for the Collections page.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.