tek's rating: ½

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is based on a ride at various Disney theme parks. (Sadly, I've never been to any Disney theme parks, so I can't tell you how the movie compares to the ride.) But anyway, I always wanted to watch the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and in 2011, with the fourth movie in theaters, I finally got around to watching the first on DVD. Well, the movie starts with a flashback, or rather a dream had by a young woman named Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). The dream is of the day about eight years ago when she was about twelve, I guess, and was on a ship with her father, Weatherby Swann, traveling from England to Port Royal, Jamaica, where he becomes governor (or maybe he already was governor, I dunno). Anyway, Elizabeth is clearly obsessed with stories of pirates, and on this particular day, her ship (which is captained by James Norrington) encounters a boy about Elizabeth's age, adrift at sea and unconscious. They rescue him, and Elizabeth takes a medallion from him before he wakes up, which she believes is a pirate's medallion, and she doesn't want the crew to find it on him.

Then the movie flashes forward to the present (by which I mean... when the main story is set; I have no idea what the year would actually be, or even what century). Elizabeth is 20 now, and Captain Norrington is being promoted to commodore. He wants to marry Elizabeth, and her father hopes she'll agree. Though it's pretty clear she actually has feelings for Will Turner, the boy they rescued eight years earlier, who is now a blacksmith (and he clearly likes her, but is afraid to say so, because of the difference in their social status). Meanwhile, a pirate named Captain Jack Sparrow shows up in Port Royal, hoping to commandeer a ship, having lost his own. (Captain Jack is a bit crazy, and vaguely reminds me, somehow, of Zaphod Beeblebrox from the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" books. Except he only has the two arms and one head.) Anyway, at one point Jack rescues Elizabeth, when she almost drowns; later, he uses her as a hostage to avoid being arrested. But he's finally captured after a sword duel with Will, who not only makes swords, but also spends a lot of time practicing with them, so that he'll be able to kill pirates if he ever meets any.

And then, while Jack is in jail, Port Royal is attacked by pirates of a ship called the Black Pearl, which is captained by Hector Barbossa. There are legends about the ship being crewed by the damned, and we soon see that the legends are true. We also learn that the ship used to belong to Jack, until Barbossa and the crew mutinied and left him on an island to die. (We'll eventually learn how he escaped the island.) And we'll learn of a treasure they had stolen, which placed a curse upon them (which, ironically, means they did Jack a favor by preventing him from being cursed along with the rest of them). Now they've spent ten years trying to recover all the pieces of treasure they had spent before realizing they were cursed, to return it where they'd found it, hoping to break the curse. Elizabeth promises to give them back her piece of the treasure, the medallion she'd taken from Will eight years ago, if they promise to leave Port Royal. They agree, but they take her with them. So, Will breaks Jack out of prison, and together they commandeer a ship to chase down the Black Pearl and rescue Elizabeth. But first they have to make a stop to put together a crew, with the help of Jack's old friend, Joshamee Gibbs (who had formerly been in the Royal Navy, serving on Captain Norrington's ship when it first carried Elizabeth and her father to Port Royal). Then, Jack, Will, and the crew head to Isla de Muerta, where the Black Pearl would be headed.

Well, I feel like I've almost said too much already, so I don't want to give away much more of what happens. And there is lots more. Lots of fun swordfights as well as battles between ships. (And there are a few ships that I couldn't keep track of, largely because crews kept switching ships, so it was hard to remember who was where at any given time.) There were also good special effects, most notably seeing the cursed crew of the Black Pearl in the moonlight, which revealed their true appearance. And um, the story was all fairly fun. Captain Jack Sparrow is a pretty great character, very amusing, though you can never really trust him to remain on any one side longer than it suits his own purposes. He mostly seems like a good guy, even if he's clearly a scoundrel, and all that being a pirate implies. And ultimately, all he really wants is to get his ship back. (Which, I think it's safe to reveal, he does, in the end; I reveal this because I expect it'll be important to know when I eventually watch and review the subsequent movies.) Will Turner is also a decent character, if not quite as interesting as Jack. It's ironic that he starts out hating pirates, but eventually learning that his father had been one, and he eventually adopts the lifestyle, himself. As does Elizabeth, another good character. And another spoiler that I'm afraid feels necessary to me is to say that Commodore Norrington turns out to be a decent guy, when he realizes Elizabeth loves Will and not him. So... the stage is well set for the second film, I imagine, and I look forward to watching it and seeing how all these characters continue to develop. Whenever I may get around to it....

pirate index
Pirates of the Caribbean
Curse of the Black Pearl * Dead Man's Chest * At World's End * On Stranger Tides * Dead Men Tell No Tales