Hannah Hughes ‘21 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
What comes to your mind when you think of the greatest film franchises of all time? Harry Potter? Star Wars? Lord Of The Rings? All fine answers, sure… But you’re forgetting one.
In July of 2003, Gore Verbinski released Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl. he film’s premise was based on the Disneyland theme park ride of a similar name. Leading up to its release, the movie was surrounded by “bad buzz” as Adam Chitwood, Managing editor for Collider, describes in his article. Between Disney’s previous movies based on park attractions, and the seemingly dead ‘pirates at sea’ sub-genre, no one expected this film to be anything worth people’s time. But as we know, swashbucklers are full of surprises.
According to the website Box Office Mojo, Curse Of The Black Pearl debuted as number one at the box office, making $46,630,690 on its opening weekend. Audiences went wild for wacky, madcap adventures of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), accompanied by swordsmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and the fiery governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly). Our heroes are pitted against a (literal) skeleton crew of pirates, led by the dirty, conniving Captain Barbossa (Geoffry Rush), as well as outrunning Port Royal’s Commodore, James Norrington (Jack Davenport).
There are many elements of Curse of the Black Pearl that make it such an excellent and exciting film to watch, but these characters lead the charge. They are each dynamic and different, bringing something different to the story, and their interactions fully cement this. Whether we’re watching Jack & Barbossa trade insults, or Elizabeth and Will quietly and carefully flirt with one another, the dialogue and acting serve a great purpose, advancing the plot and character, as well as entertaining the audience with clever humor.
Arguably, Depp’s performance as Jack Sparrow is one of his most notable roles, and is really what sets the bar for Curse of the Black Pearl and subsequent films. An article from Inside The Magic explains how Depp created specific body language, speech patterns, and mannerisms that bring the clumsy and clever pirate to life. This dedication is why audiences fell in love with him in the first place, and what drives the series forward as a whole.
These over-the-top characters, accompanied with Hans Zimmer’s iconic score, detailed costuming, on-location filming, and daring stunt and action sequences are all wrapped together in a seemingly grounded, yet outlandish plot full of twists and turns that keeps the audience engaged until the credits roll. This perfect package sent the film into success, calling on Walt Disney to make two more sequels, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Both of these sequels are excellent continuations of the story of Jack, Will, & Elizabeth.
Dead Man’s Chest, the second subsequent film in the series feels like a reunion of sorts. We are introduced to a fan-favorite, Captain Davy Jones, the pirate captain of The Flying Dutchman and his undead crew. As well as Tia Dalma, and our penultimate villain, Lord Cutler Beckett. The editions to the plot feel necessary, and breathe new life into the film while still allowing us to follow our beloved characters, almost all who have come with us from the first film onto this one. It’s another journey for treasure, layered thick with pirate lore that is masterfully built upon from the first film, and although reaching this deeper context, it still is a ‘boat-load’ of fun with a cliffhanger ending that perfectly sets up the third (and final) film of the trilogy.
At World’s End is the ultimate conclusion to the grand adventures of Jack and his crew. It has plenty of moments for the fans of the franchise. The stakes are much higher here, and At World’s End makes sure the audience knows that. We still see our characters, the heart and soul of this franchise, for what they are. Never does the movie sacrifice a genuine moment for flash or pizzaz, or for the sake of the plot. Character persona and motivation is still prevalent here, which still makes it a joy to watch.
Although all of these elements truly make the Pirates of the Caribbean films so good, they can essentially be boiled down to one singular concept, and that’s balance.
Balance is arguably the most important, yet best kept secret to making an adventure film stand out in the way Pirates does. It never takes itself too seriously, yet it knows when to push forward and pull back, much like the sails on a pirate ship. The plot lines intersect and and could very easily get tangled with each other in a way that could be far too confusing for the audience. However, like a perfect dance, all three of these movies confidently lay the groundwork for the sneaky and conniving pirate’s schemes, while making everyone’s intentions clear for the audience (when the time is right).
And before you ask, yes there are two other movies in the franchise. However, they arguably lack what has made the original trio so fantastic. While On Stranger Tides struggles in the absence of Will & Elizabeth. The latest installment of the franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales had the potential to be another great Pirates movie, with the return of original characters like Will, Elizabeth, and Captain Barbossa, and a great new villain, Captain Salazar. However, the writing and characterization falls flat, reducing Jack Sparrow himself to a mere bumbling, drunk, idiot. Something the earlier installments make clear that he is not. In terms of these films, although they may build upon the great world and universe the films are set in, they do not hold a candle to the original three.
So, next time ye are looking for treasure, take a moment to think about Captain Jack Sparrow and his pirate crew. You can stream the original three movies in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise on Disney Plus today! So, hoist the colors and grab your bottle of rum. Sit back, relax, and drink up me hearties, yo ho!