Ben Hibburd’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was never big on the "Pirates" franchise and whilst I always thought this film was decent I never had the desire to revisit it on an almost bi-weekly schedule as I did with "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" when I was a kid.
However, due to boredom and a curiosity to see how this film held up I figured I'd make use of my Disney+ subscription. What I found was an incredibly fun and well crafted movie that's held up remarkably well when compared against some its contemporaries of the time.
Firstly, this film is absolutely stunning to look at. From a visual perspective this film is almost impeccable. The sets are well conceived and they feel alive with a palpable sense of history. However, much like the tone of the film it's juxtaposed against a darker, more mystical force. The set design of the pirate cove adds a unique sense of aged mysticism that envelopes the story, as does the pirate ship, the Black Pearl.
The CGI for the most part also holds up nicely. You can notice the occasional roughness when the pirates are in skeleton form and some of the motion feels slightly exaggerated but at this point I'm just nitpicking.
The story, despite it's repetitiveness (mainly towards the end) is well paced and the first half of the film flies by. It's only when the we return of the pirate cove that the story starts to feel like it's being deliberately stretched. Thankfully, though the film manages to reign itself in which is something that Vebinski struggled to do with his two bloated sequels.
Other than that I had an absolute blast with this film, I forgot just how much fun the first "Pirates" outing is. The cast all do a pretty job with their roles in the film and I felt invested in them as characters. Although this time I found Depp's infamous Jack Sparrow to be slightly grating at times, but not enough to affect my feelings towards the story or the film. And whilst I haven't seen all of Gore Verbinski's films this is easily his best work.
On a side note I have to give this film extra credit because without it there's no way we'd of got one of the best TV shows in the last decade "Black Sails!"