Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl



USA 2003 : Gore VERBINSKI : 143 mins

As lengthy and unwieldy as its double-mouthful title, this tongue-in-cheek swashbuckler is like being stuck a dungeon with a rum-sozzled old seadog who can’t stop spinning tall tales of seaborne skullduggery. Theres enough entertainment, laughs and boisterous derring-do to keep any audience absorbed, even if the story is sloppily told, repetitive, incoherent, repetitive, long-winded, and repetitive.

Keira Knightley and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black PearlThe plot is basically some nonsense about a golden uber-trinket, pursued by undead seafarers under the command of bad pirate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) – standing in their way are good(ish) pirate Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and plucky lovebirds Will (Orlando Bloom*) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley). Briny chaos ensues.

The outrageously OTT Depp keeps things afloat pretty much single-handed though he’s claimed his performance to be a Keith Richards tribute, there’s also plenty of the mid-60s Peter OToole in his hammy, perpetually half-cut improvisations. Verbinski, meanwhile as in The Mexican and The Ring – is hardly the steadiest hand on the tiller, ensuring this vessel lurches and lists alarmingly over the course of its protracted voyage buoyed along by a script (by Shrek scribes Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, and based on a Walt Disney theme-park ride) that gleefully sends up every last corny clich of the half-remembered, long-submerged pirate genre.

Its very hard, however, to knock a film that contains (at least) three amusing nods to John Carpenters The Fog, and whose nifty, hyperkinetic visuals include some striking horror-movie-inspired images (classily realised by cinematographer Darius Wolski and FX co-ordinator John Knoll) – including a spectacular underwater march-of-the-zombies that is, to paraphrase Mark E Smith, a genuine tenebral ocean-bed achievement.

5th August, 2003
(seen same day : Warner Village, Leeds)

*anagram : Blando Orloom

by Neil Young