July 30, 2003

Yo Ho, Yo Ho

When Ryan came into work yesterday, he told me he wanted to be a pirate when he grew up. He'd just seen "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl." So off I went to see what the fuss was about. [MINOR SPOILERS]

In the film, you learn of young William Turner (Orlando Bloom), an orphan who becomes a poor and under-appreciated but skilled blacksmith. His lineage is tied to pirating, though he is unaware of it. He's secretly in love with the governor's daughter - the enchanting Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) who is an expert on all things having to do with pirates. They have known each other since he was rescued from a shipwreck when they were children, and Elizabeth took from him a skull-embossed gold medallion. But as the governor's daughter, she's expected to marry a high-born man, like that new commodore.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) soon arrives in their midst, hopping off his sinking vessel with uncommon flair. He's a seemingly addled, obnoxiously flamboyant and startlingly clever fellow who just happens to be a notorious pirate and who (not coincidentally) will have you thinking of Keith Richards long after the end of the film. There is more than meets the eye to Captain Jack. When Sparrow shows his essentially honorable heart by risking his life to save Elizabeth from a fall into the bay, he runs afoul of the local military because pirates, even goodhearted ones, are not tolerated. Unfortunately, some pretty evil pirates who want the medallion have now been alerted to its presence, and are on their way. Led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), there is more than meets the eye to these unsavory characters, too, but it's all foul.

Gore Verbinski, coming off having directed the runaway horror adaptation "The Ring," takes these characters, and runs with them. Depp as Sparrow is given a wide berth to wander within his character, and this leeway pays off. His version of the pirate's life is all about freedom. Freedom to go where you will and the freedom to be an eccentric. And freedom to steal other people's stuff.

Depp is certainly a standout in this film, but Orlando Bloom plays his character pretty straight. I'm not sure if that's by design or necessity, but he does absolutely nothing to shame himself in this film and he does more than a bit to show he can go with the flow. Knightly's Elizabeth, a girl longing for adventure, is probably the best example in the film of Verbinski's effort to use nonverbal acting to help the film hit home on a gut level rather than throw a lot of words at your ears.

Verbinski can also be praised for his attention to some minor characters. There are comic foils both among the pirates and the British marines who are recurring and are a refreshing break from the main story line. I'm not expert on the Bard, but I felt a definite Shakespearian influence there.

The film is 2.5 hours long. It can't help but drag a little because of that. My main complaint about it is that some of it should have been left on the cutting room floor. For pacing's sake, I can see why Verbinski didn't tighten up the slower scenes. You can't have action all the time. But we could have done better with simply fewer scenes.

Honestly, the film is almost worth the price of admission just to see Johnny Depp mince around and still connect with the audience through the . In a later scene, Depp looks totally bewildered when, in a dire situation he inquires repeatedly "But why's the rum gone?" and you're convinced that he couldn't care less that death may be approaching, except for the fact that the party is over.

If being a pirate means never growing up, outsmarting both the bad guys and the really stuffy but well-meaning folks, and exercising your freedom then, by golly, I want to be a pirate too!

Posted by James at July 30, 2003 12:36 PM
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I want to be a pirate too... WITH Johnny Depp. :-)

Posted by: julie at July 30, 2003 12:42 PM

You're too funny.

Posted by: JP at July 30, 2003 2:27 PM

Johnny Depp is amazing. I could watch just about anything he's done.

Posted by: Mike at July 30, 2003 6:14 PM

I saw Pirates last week. It was a lot of fun. Depp and Rush were both excellent. My only complaint was the length. 2 1/2 hours was definately too long.

Posted by: Bob at July 31, 2003 11:59 AM

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