Nick Mathis’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’d love to see more future Disney films based off of lesser known theme park attractions. Can you imagine what they could do with a “Hall of Presidents” type film, stylized in the same vein as MTV’s “Celebrity Death-Match?” I can see it now: Ronald Reagan eating those jellybeans; Grover Cleveland stuck inside his tub, rooting on Franklin D. Roosevelt as he gives Donald Trump, a severe Indian burn. Our POTUS’s small hands are a-flailing, as he sputters out ‘Covfefe’ in glorious surrender. Now that’s what I call fun for the whole family.
There is without a doubt, that the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise has become THE definitive movie of the swashbuckling genre, if not, the greatest pirate movie franchise of all time. Everything about “The Curse of the Black Pearl” excels marvelously. What can I add that hasn’t been said before? The production design is dazzlingly lavish, featuring amazing costumes, and majestic ships that actually sail about while filmed on location all across the ocean; The well staged choreography for all the sword-fights and ship-battles are meticulously crafted and full of endless creativity and excellent humor, balancing practical and special effects seamlessly; The screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio is as sharp as the blades wielded by the crew, imaginatively creating a full universe that combines actual colonial history with supernatural myths that shroud pirate lore- literally all from an animatronic theme park ride where the highlight is watching imprisoned pirates bargain for the keys to their cell from a dog; Hans Zimmer composes a phenomenal score, that could be argued as being as epic as “Star Wars,” heightening every scene to the brim with thrills, chills, suspense, intrigue, but most importantly, a daring sense of camaraderie and adventure; Johnny Depp delivers an all-time best performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, whose performance is truly inspired and is never a gimmick, unlike his other quirky character-based performances found abundantly in the rest of his filmography; The entire supporting cast is excellent too with Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush keeping the film spectacularly grounded amidst Depp’s antics; Gore Verbinski directed the absolute heck out of this film!
For a film associated with the Disney moniker, I am astounded that “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” completely and ambitiously sheds away any shared identity with the studio, garnering the studio its very first PG13 rating. Verbinski’s directorial attitude of throwing everything at the proverbial sail truly works and never feels unjustified or unworthy of its rating. These pirates are not mild-mannered like Captain Hook, instead drinking dangerous amount of rum while pilfering and plundering isles, serving as morally degenerate characters never associated with the family studio. (Tortuga is literally a 16th century version of Sodom and Gomorrah!) There is very little reminder that this is a Disney film, except for the occasional tidbit of cheesiness in it’s slight over-abundance of humor, and dated CGI. There is no sign of the Mouse anywhere. 4.2/5