Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, The  (2003)


Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce

Director: Gore Verbinski

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 2, 2003
Review posted: January 7, 2004

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




The roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow's (Depp) idyllic pirate life capsizes after his nemesis, the wily Captain Barbossa (Rush), steals his ship the Black Pearl, and later attacks the town of Port Royal, kidnapping the governor's beautiful daughter Elizabeth (Knightley). In a gallant attempt to rescue her and recapture the Black Pearl, Elizabeth's childhood friend Will Turner (Bloom) joins forces with Jack. What Will doesn't know is that a cursed treasure has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live forever as the undead.




I had the most fun this past summer with the exciting action adventure Pirates of the Caribbean for several reasons. It's exciting, for one. The script is based on the Disneyland ride about pirates. The writing team of four, including Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio who received screenplay credit, adapts the premise and fleshes it out with a great storyline, fun characters, an exotic location and cool bad buys, aka pirates.


A lot of the action in the film is justified, never forced. Sometimes the action exceeds of what is humanly possible, but the film is based on a tale after all with the curse of the black pearl and all. No, I'm not questioning the integrity of the film, but instead I'm applauding the fantastic storytelling of the writers and the splendid filmmaking by director Gore Verbinski and crew. With all the fun and excitement there is in this film, there is also the added weight of roughly 20 minutes that could've been cut to create a more steady pace. As it is, the film drags on a bit in the middle, yet nothing slows the exciting first 30 minutes.


Among other things, Pirates of the Caribbean stands out for its keen sense of adventure. Providing the huge sets and even two vintage ships is the production of Jerry Bruckheimer and the team of production designers, set dressers, costume directors, and more, perhaps even carpenters. The film is just an incredible visual experience.


Adding to the sense of entertainment value this film openly displays is the riotous, hilarious performance by Johnny Depp. He makes the character of Jack Sparrow mysteriously sympathetic. Sparrow is a pirate after all, but Depp's performance is ever so memorable. He might be the best on-screen pirate I've ever seen. Okay, while that is probably not saying a lot, you most likely get the idea that Depp is a real hoot. Supporting players such as Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are perfectly cast. Rush's performance is one of both reverence and menace, while Knightley displays perfect hotness.


The Video


Buena Vista presents Pirates of the Caribbean in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This film is a visual extravaganza. Video quality is amiable, but there are certain issues to be addressed. First of all, edge enhancement occurs in quite a few places. This causes halos. There are also notable amounts of grain and some background images lack sharpness. The print image shows a few concerns, but overall it's in very good condition. On the positive side, Pirates features really good detail and colors. Colors are bright and clear, also well-saturated. Dark tones and black levels are solid during night scenes. Overall, the presentation looks pretty good despite a few problems.


The Audio


Buena Vista presents Pirates of the Caribbean in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. It is nicely reproduced across the two front channels. Surrounds are active throughout most of the show. Sound effects give this presentation cool ambience, such as the sword fight and the many explosions. Klaus Badelt's score is grand and boasts nice dynamic range. Positional audio is evident and nicely done. It's something of a feat on Buena Vista's part squeezing together the multiple audio tracks, three commentaries in mono, and the 143-minute film onto one disc. Quality suffers a bit because of this, but not in a big way. The audio presentation is quite clear and sounds off as loud as can be. For comparison, the DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound presentation is equally impressive as impressive as the DD track, but perhaps including a bit more "oomph". These transfers are THX certified. A French 2.0 Dolby dub track is also available.


The Extras


This is a really nice 2-disc DVD with satisfying and revealing special features. Instead of going into detail on them I will simply list them. Most of them are worth watching so explore them for yourself.

  • Commentary by Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp

  • Commentary by writers Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert

  • Selected Scene Commentary by Keira Knightley & Jack Davenport and Jerry Bruckheimer

  • "An Epic At Sea" - The Making of the film.

  • 19 Deleted and Alternate Scenes - Extensions

  • "Moonlight Serenade" Scene Progression

  • "Below Deck" - An interactive history of pirates

  • "Fly on the Set" - On-set footage of 5 key scenes

  • "Diary of a Pirate" - Behind-the-scenes look with cast member Lee Arenberg

  • "Diary of a Ship" Video Journal

  • "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color"

  • Producer's Diary featurette with Jerry Bruckheimer

  • Image Gallery

  • Blooper Reel (3 mins.)

  • Easter eggs (2, maybe more)

  • DVD-ROM Features: "Moonlight Becomes Ye" Effects Studio, History of the Ride Featurette, Virtual Reality Viewer, ScriptScanner, and Storyboard Viewing Modes

You can select to view the film with optional English and French subtitles. The 143-minute feature is organized into sixteen chapters.




Pirates of the Caribbean is a smart action adventure. Jerry Bruckheimer strikes gold once again, Depp's performance is a treasure to behold, and the action is all in good fun. The excitement doesn't let up, even if the film is about 20 minutes too long. Disney's video shows some problems, but is quite sharp, while audio is loud and clear. The extras are fun and welcoming. This 2-disc collector's edition DVD is highly recommended. It's a sure bet the next time you visit your nearest retailer.









OVERALL (not an average)









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