Lewiss’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the greatest cinematic miracles to ever happen. Everything about this should have been absolutely terrible, or at best mediocre. Yet everything came together perfectly to create not only one of the most entertaining and profitable film franchises of all time, but one of the single best standalone features ever made with the first installment of movies based on a theme park ride that, given the history of adaptations of this sort, should have been doomed to fail.
There's so much love, care and attention to detail in this work of craftsmanship. Fantastic sets, charismatic performances, fleshed out characters that are far from paper-thin, inventive action, one of the best villains to grace the screen, a truly epic score and a tone that can only be described as flawless.
I honestly have no problems with this movie at all, not even any nitpicking, because it's all constructed to absolute perfection. The script is one of the cleanest ever, and the level of quality to the dialogue filled with intricacies makes for a film where not a single boring word is uttered out of any of the characters' mouths. Every line has a flair to it that both fits in wonderfully with the time period while simultaneously having a modern sense of wit and entertainment value that wouldn't have been found within the real life setting.
The costumes and sets are immersive and yet strangely reminiscent of their theme park origins. The Isla de Muerta especially is a glorious construction that feels as real as it feels like a set. You can look at it and think 'wow, the cave of the treasure of Cortez is so great', and also think 'wow, the set of the cave of the treasure of Cortez is so great'. It's the kind of feeling only sets like the Temple of Doom and the caves in The Goonies can give you.
The cast of characters are so well written and so well acted that even the audience-perspective character, Will Turner, is instantly iconic and loveable, with a rich backstory that's explored so cleverly in bits and pieces that the audience has to put together themselves over the course of the movie. Scenes of exposition don't even bring the movie down because they never tell you everything at once. Only what's necessary for that scene and only what flows with what the characters should know and why they're motivated to tell others. The plot unravels so fluidly and with so much backstory that contributes to it in such interesting ways, combined with extremely clever running jokes that play into them.
I can gush about this movie forever. I've always loved it but I've never really thought about just how great it is and just how much of a gift it is that they got everything about it as right as they did. It's nostalgic and fresh at the same time. It created iconic characters, musical themes, moments and lines that hold up to this day. The introduction of Jack Sparrow is one of the funniest and most awesome introductions to a character ever filmed, and Klaus Badelt's incredible score not only fills the movie with an added layer of life, but works with each individual scene to intertwine the score with the visuals in ways most films don't even try to. Notice how in the early fight between Will and Jack, the music is almost entirely in rhythm with their clashing swords. It makes every creative action scene that much more fun.
Still feels remarkably original 14 years later.