I am an enormous fan of Johnny Depp. He imerses himself fully into whatever character he's playing and brings a great energy to the part. I've gotten to the point that I'll see anything he's in now, just because he's in it, regardless if I think the movie will be good or not (see "From Hell"). Mr. Depp delivers once again in Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl a wonderful pirate film which only adds to the long list of characters Depp can portray.
"Pirates" opens with a ship discovering another ship in ruins and a lone boy floating on a plank of wood with a mysterious pirate medallion around his neck. The little girl who discovered him takes the medallion for fear the shipmates will cast him aside because they will think he is a pirate. Several years later, the little girl, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is all grown up (for real), the daughter of the governor, with the memories of that day in her head. That little boy, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) has grown up too, but has grown up as a blacksmith who pines for Swann. Enter the lone pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) who comes into town aboard his rugged boat, in hillarious fashion might I add. And shortly after that, enter the mysterious ship the Black Pearl and Captain Barbossa (Geoffery Rush) who ravage the town and kidnap Swann looking for their lost medallion that will lift their decade-long curse of being undead. So Sparrow and Turner team up to save the lass and get some revenge.
What I liked the most about this movie is Johnny Depp - big surprise, eh? He is superb as Sparrow, the eccentric pirate who was betrayed by Barbossa. He provides for almost all of the movie's comic relief with his quick tongue and bizzare behavior that looks like Depp partially stolen from his phenomenal role as Raoul Duke in the highly underrated "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Depp carries the whole movie, enhancing the best parts, and dragging it through the slow parts, which there are quite a few. Orlando Bloom shines as well in his first non-elf role since, well, you know. His performance as the doubting Turner is pretty good and he plays off Depp quite nicely.
The supporting performances aren't as great, though. The best supporting performance is from Jack Davenport as Commodore Norrington, which is kind of weird since the character shares the same last name as director Steven Norrington. Anyway, Davenport gives a great performance as the good-but-bad Norrington. His snobbish expressions and tone will really annoy you, which means he did his job very well. The other supporting performances from Knightley, in her first major role, is fairly bland as is Rush's cliche performance as Barbossa. Jonathan Pryce is O.K. as Governor Swann, but he's not great. These roles do their jobs, but they do the bare minimum, not to mention the seemingly large cast of minor speaking roles, including a pirate from Barbossa's crew who keeps losing his wooden eye, which lifts some of the burden of comic relief.
What I also really liked about the movie were the costumes and design of the movie. Penny Ross designed some wonderful period costumes and the production design by Brian Morris and set decoration by Larry Dias really set the tone of the movie quite nicely. The Industrial Light and Magic visual effects for the dead-but-not-dead pirates are very nice as well.
One minor problem I had was that they tried to Disney-fy it. Well, I know it was based off a Disneyland ride, and it was produced by Disney, but I thought it would be more of a serious movie like they tried to do with "Armageddon." There are several parts in the beginning that are really kids-type gags that just looks like added fluff and bored me. This doesn't happen a whole lot, but enough to annoy me.
The script by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, who have written primarilly animated fare (See above arguement: "Shrek," "Treasure Planet," "Aladdin") is fairly solid. There is some nice character development with Sparrow and Turner, some crisp dialogue, mostly Sparrow's and a nice underlying plot with some nice twists and a nice running part about the pirate's code. The problem with the script, however, is that the storytelling gets a bit jumbled in the subplots. The movie, like most this summer, is a tad long and could've easily been shortened. The story kind of jumps all over the place sometimes and it should have been more condensed. But the main parts of the story works very well.
Most pirate movies feature some great swashbuckling action scenes, and this one delivers some great ones. The scenes where the Black Pearl crew invades town is great, as is the boat fight between the Black Pearl and the Interceptor, the good guy's boat. There's also some nice swordplay as well, in duels with Depp and Bloom when they first meet and Depp and Rush in the big pirate showdown.
Director Gore Verbinski, who scored a huge hit last year with "The Ring," continues his winning trend with this movie. He handles the great cinematography well, and has a nice flowing style that helps smooth out the bumpy parts in the script.
Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a movie realization and acceptance: realizing who you are and accepting it. This underlying tone gets a bit lost in the swashbuckling and scrambled storyline, but it's there. This is one hell of an entertaining ride that shows how summer movies are supposed to be like. Maybe it will even give Arnold and Co., whose "T3" didn't have as strong a showing at the box-office as many thought, a run for its money. But even if it doesn't, Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl will be one of the great movies of the surprisingly good summer.
Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl is out July 9, 2003.