David Monks’s review published on Letterboxd:
That's a difficult word to latch onto a franchise that prints money, but The Curse of the Black Pearl admittedly qualifies. It's remarkable that this doesn’t deserve the gallows, and please, let me tell you why.
The script is LEGENDARY. No, it seriously is. Its uniqueness and unpredictability aren’t its only high marks. The moments of exposition are handled meticulously well, and the indirect characterization especially is marvelous: struggles, relationships, motivations, goals, wants, needs, choices, actions, interactions, the foreshadowing, and the in-world societal views are sold convincingly. Additionally, themes like morality and others this movie has are not only relatable to the audience but further connect us with the characters.
The screenwriting duo lifts these characters up to become larger than life but still approachable and are easily understood visually—even amidst the insanity. When dialogue appears, it flows and becomes a maelstrom of engaging inventiveness. It lengthens our attachment to this world where dead men do tell tales. This is an example of the screenwriters and actors knowing their characters. Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio penned their career-defining work here.
Watching Jack Sparrow scurry his way out of any situation really reminds me of the brilliance of the Dark Knight. Because the obstacles aren’t just resourceful character screenwriting, they propel a fascinating story forward simultaneously. Personalities clash, collaborations aren’t always mutual, and there’s always something for them to learn. You also won’t find mindless action scenes embedded in the story. On the high seas, they further each characters' arc. The action literally gives character development. Even the most minor characters are extremely likable which is something not many films are able to accomplish. Character entrances are always impeccable, and their complete arcs are handled far beyond prose to great effect. This film is a juggling act that pulls it all off. It’s equally absurd and believable. Surrealism is what it is.
Might I mention that the musical score for the series is second to the Star Wars Saga.
Hans Zimmer placing Klaus Badelt in charge of its start was a wise choice, and he leads his music team to incredible results.
The visual effects, sound design, and fight choreography are also impressive, but what matters more is that the entire production design and cinematography look as dazzling as they do, together.
The directing gets a lot out of the actors. Verbinski manages to pull this all off also with a pleasant visual style. It gets the job done competently. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s solid, and doesn’t detract at all from the astonishing aspects of the film. That’s a win in my book!
It seems that every success story barely made it out of the assembly line and Pirates doesn't contradict that. Nobody believed in this film. It was pitched based on a theme park attraction--one of the best--but still, a theme park attraction. What feature film length story could come out of that? The pirates genre was dead in the water to boot.
The head of Disney at the time, Michael Eisner, personally seemed to be on a warpath with this film, and I am sure his paranoia was mounting after the Country Bears film flopped. It took convincing from director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and others to eventually bring forth an excellent piece of art that once Eisner could be shown was sold on, and not long after, audiences alike. It ends up being more of an immensely original story than anything over a ‘theme park ride,’ but the Easter eggs are exciting every time they show up! It took many, many rewrites that are effectively, entirely separate movies, and stars aligning with a legion of collective vision to create this epic motion picture.
This film has a quotability to compete with the Dark Knight, iconic performances from Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, is a never-ending love letter bursting to the seams with creativity for swashbuckling fans, and it’s done in a way that general moviegoers can adore it. That goes from the music, to the writing, to the art direction. The completed journey is absolutely breathtaking, making it a brilliant and quite lively watch.
This film just works.