Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is the greatest film based on a theme park ride, ever made. It may also be the best movie ever made, but certainly the most important movie ever been made for me. I’ve made a career out of being the number one(?) Johnny Depp scholar who knows too much about Johnny Depp, but not in a creepy way, just in a way that I play him in a play sometimes and host a podcast about him. So maybe it is a little creepy.
2003 was a weird year for everybody. The fashion, the pop culture zeitgeist, and I was about to enter high school. YIKES. But then, there it was. The summer blockbuster nobody asked for, but everybody needed. The catalyst for not one… not two… not even THREE, but FIVE sequels. It reinvigorated a forgotten character actor’s career and catapulted this actor to an Oscar nomination, $5.6 million contracts PER MOVIE, and bonafide superstardom. It also made this actor my new 12 year old obsession. I didn’t want to kiss Johnny Depp or date Johnny Depp. That’s gross. (Seriously, have you ever seen him kiss in a movie? It’s so weird.) I wanted to be Johnny Depp. More specifically, I wanted to be Johnny Depp… as Jack Sparrow.
2001-2003 was a great run for action adventure and huge budget blockbusters. We were spoiled with Pirates and Lord of the Rings coming out almost simultaneously, and it seemed movie studios were super tuned in to what movie goers wanted to see. Orlando Bloom was also living his best life and collecting his best paychecks.
I love Lord of the Rings a lot a lot, but I just don’t identify with the characters in the same way Pirates grabbed me. Scallywags and anti-heroes have always spoken to me more than honorable men, and the Curse of the Black Pearl is also very, very, funny. It’s cool in a way Disney… generally isn’t. It was a studio gamble with too many bizarre choices to be a success, and in spite of everything, it broke box office records and became a phenomenon.
I don’t have to tell you, gentle reader, what the Curse of the Black Pearl is about. We’re all familiar with skeleton crews, corsets, and being stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a one shot pistol and a large amount of rum. In my show Johnny Depp: A Retrospective on Late-Stage Capitalism we go around the room and say one thing we remember about the movie. “Skeleton Monkey!” “Why is the rum gone!?” “Geoffrey Rush’s teeth!” and “Keira Knightly is hot!” have been some of the favorites.
But the plot of Pirates isn’t what’s important. The atmosphere is what is important. The plot, like all great Pirate movies, is over-stuffed and overly complex, but that’s part of the magic. The plot isn’t the thing. The adventure, the atmosphere, and the play is the thing. Gore Verbinski knows how to make a movie and the Klaus Badelt/Hans Zimmer score is bumpin’. I asked my middle school band teacher if we could play a Pirates medley for our spring concert. The tenor sax line was fun enough. I was living.
My dad took me and two of my friends to see Pirates 6 times in theatres, including opening night. We cosplayed as Jack, Will, and Elizabeth at historic Fort Mifflin. We wrote each other letters as the characters and dressed up as all of them for Halloween. That Halloween costume parlayed into a show because my co-creator of Depp….a retrospective, Val Dunn, also dressed up as Jack Sparrow. Now I get to travel the world on Sparrow’s coattails and remind folks how good this movie is.
Do yourself a favor, millennial, and revisit Pirates of the Caribbean as an adult. I promise the movie is every bit as delightful as you remember it.
Just maybe skip the 4th and 5th one. Dip into the second and third for the wheel, Davy Jones and his terrifying crew, and if you have 6 hours to kill.
Originally posted on MovieJawn.com