For Joy Day, Kraig Taylor-Bryant buckles his swashes and heads for a life on the ocean wave...
To think of a film that I watch to bring me joy, I have to think a little further back than Star Wars, as I seem to write about that quite often, and how unsurprising would it be to write about it again, right? I didn’t want to go as far back as to write about Pixar’s “Cars” or Thomas the Tank Engine, but something that still brings me to joy to watch to this day, such as Pirates of the Caribbean. And of course if I am going to write about Pirates of the Caribbean, a franchise I was deeply enchanted by as a child, it would have to be the film that started it, Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl. The combined work of Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer is what, for me, makes this film stand out among others and the iconic music stays with me even now.
Let’s talk through important elements of the film in order. At the start of the film, we hear the child actor playing Elizabeth, singing on the front of a Royal Navy ship amongst mysterious fog. It’s music like this that almost makes you think of a graveyard that is haunted which makes it fit the fact that, later in this scene, the Navy find a pirate ship on fire surrounded by afloat corpses that once plundered aboard it. Or, you could say, it makes the Royal Navy seem more mysterious and untrustworthy. That’s what I like about certain films, you can interpret even the tiniest things differently. It’s funny how, as I child, I didn’t even fully understand what was going on but now that I rewatch, I almost overthink it, or maybe I do, that’s for you to decide. Anyway, when we see the scale of destruction on the ship, as an audience, and we hear the tragic music, we’re instantly interested in what’s going on, and invested in the plot. Well, this wasn’t the moment for me when I was a child but it was the moment that I now enjoy as I have grown up. I also like how the music is used in a dark tone to represent the stereotype of a pirate, but as our perspective expands over the course of the film, a calmer and nicer tone is given to them to represent Jack as a pirate.
This scene is soon followed by a quick transition from Elizabeth’s childhood to adulthood, which I think is clever, to show the events as a dream to Elizabeth as it gives us a glimpse into her and Will’s past without forcing us to guess that the person we are seeing is an older version of the child we saw before. It also hints from the start that Elizabeth has some kind of hidden feelings for Will as he ‘dreamt of him’ during the night, if that’s not because she has feelings for him, I don’t know what else it could mean, unless she can predict the future or something. So when Elizabeth tells Will of this dream, we are instantly introduced to Orlando Bloom’s, now older, Will Turner and, as a child, this is the point that I became interested in his character because we start to see him as a skilled swordsman when he throws a sword into the air and catches it. This intro to him is also slightly more comical as he breaks something by accident. And if you think about that moment a little more deeply, it could be because he’s not used to seeing such posh items in his company, thereby singling him out from most of the posh British characters that we see in this film, and makes him the typical fairytale guy who’s fighting for approval to marry the woman he loves from her father who is very ‘high up’ (so to speak). It’s not a bad thing that its almost cliché, I think it’s what a lot of love stories need, it shows that it’s the personality that matters.
Anyway, we see Elizabeth at Norrington’s promotion ceremony as a strong female character that stands up for herself, when she gives her opinion of the dress she is wearing, and quickly she develops further into a character that’s willing to fight to save the one that she loves, which certainly isn’t cliché, making this film different from those other typical Disney tales. During this ceremony, we’re introduced to Jack through this epic soundtrack, The Medallion Calls, and it was at that moment that I thought that Captain Jack Sparrow was a pretty cool character, although I think the make up kind of threw me off him being my favourite character overall. When we’re first introduced to the character of Jack Sparrow, we don’t learn his name until Commodore Norrington meets him after Jack saves Elizabeth from drowning. So it’s through Norrington that we find out what kind of person Jack truly is and that’s what leads us to form a kind of prejudice towards pirates. Granted there’s a clue in the name “pirates” that they’re not meant to be the nicest of people, but we learn towards the end that there is a grey area between what’s considered a good man and a pirate. Through the film developing this prejudice, it starts by making us think that Jack is some bumbling idiot, especially when he holds Elizabeth hostage after Norrington and the Governor decide to shoot him after Jack saves the Governor’s daughter. However we don’t see it that way at this point, we just simply see it as Jack being cruel to an innocent woman to save his own skin when, later on in the film, you could almost see him as a victim who felt betrayed by the fact that he saved Elizabeth and now all of a sudden, these people want to kill him. This then leads Jack to swing about, causing a few royal soldiers to fall into rivers etc. Jack manages to escape; this moment is not only comical, but iconic for me, as it was at this moment that I fell in love with the franchise as a child, as it was the amazing music and the hilarity of what was going on that fascinated me.
Jack seeks refuge from the soldiers in a blacksmiths forge, where he meets Will Turner, who ends up preventing Jacks escape, forcing a confrontation on Jack, and leading to a thrilling sword fight. This is the fight that I really found interesting in the film because, as a child, I saw Will as the hero and Jack as the guy who was bad, when really you can see it either way; now I see Jack as the hero who is simply being judged for the people/group that he is associated with. Before the fight actually begins though, we hear Jack saying that Will looks familiar, which is the first hint that Jack knows Will’s father as, of course, he is the one that Jack is in fact referring to, and I think that this links this film really well to the one that follows it, the Dead Man’s Chest. As a child I grew to really like Will Turner from this moment, as this fight led Jack to cheat. Well, what would you expect if this fight, if prolonged, would lead to the soldiers finding him anyway? Of course he would want to end the fight abruptly and get out. This leads to the hilarious moment in which Will’s drunk mentor, Mr Brown, knocks out Jack and causes Jack to be taken to prison.
Cut to us seeing Elizabeth again, in her bed and having it warmed up by her house maid, when the maid mentions how she must have had a difficult day, it’s funny that Elizabeth thinks the maid is talking about the commodore proposing. The fact that Elizabeth considers this difficult, obviously tells us that she doesn’t want to marry Norrington if she considers that difficult.
A calmer conversation between the Governor and Norrington follows, in which they are talking about Elizabeth, linking to the previous scene well. This then starts off the sequence in which the Black Pearl attacks. It’s at this scene, we hear Jack refer to the ship as “the Pearl” which not only tells us how familiar he is with the ship, but also helps the audience in becoming afraid of this menacing ship as it’s through the main character’s fear that we are led to be afraid as we can assume it’s gained a fearful reputation, as told through Jack’s cell mates. Again we hear the fantastic music that conveys the evil pirates that are attacking, as well as through the screaming and explosions. This is what scared me as a kid, and even now I can see them as perfectly created villains as, through their acting and the music, it’s clearly established that they represent the uglier side of pirating. During this raid by the crew of the Pearl, we see two of the crew reach the Governor’s household in search of valuables and come across Elizabeth with the gold piece that they need. And when Elizabeth is hiding with it, it is perfectly shot when we see the light shining through the gap in the closet that Elizabeth hides in and, when that gap is filled, it gives the audience a moment to feel the fear that Elizabeth feels, before showing the door open and the villains appear again. So the plot progresses, the damsel is captured. Will sees her being taken and he goes to get to her and runs into a guy with a bomb. Will gets a little cocky when the bomb doesn’t go off, before he gets knocked out by a passing pirate. This kind of tells us that Will should stop being overconfident and this leads him to act more sensibly throughout the plot to find Elizabeth and help her.
When Will wakes up, he goes to Norrington for help, showing us more of his loyalty to the Royal Navy and how much he relies on them for help. However, when they disagree with his plan to co-operate with Jack to find the Pearl, this leads Will to act rashly and rescue Jack so he can help Will. This shows how far Will is willing to go to save Elizabeth whereas, clearly, Norrington isn’t willing to go that far, so he clearly doesn’t love her enough to act in a way required to find her. We gets some good, comical conversation between Will and Jack, like when Jack jokes about how the “key has run off” as the key is on a chain around a dog’s neck, and we’re still engaged with what’s going on through the humour and the sheer ridiculousness leading to the fight scenes.
Will and Jack steal a ship and they sail off to find the main pirate island that is Tortuga. It’s in this scene that we’re interested to learn that Will is a particularly important character to the entire plot as Jack’s friend Gibbs is willing to go after the Pearl when Jack mentions using Will as leverage. Now you start to see Jack as a more traitorous guy but, when we’re lead to final scene in which Will is tied up and Jack is negotiating with Barbossa, Jack decides to save Will and this leaves Elizabeth, who is now safe and sound, to escape her royal protection’s custody and go to help Will fight the crew of the Pearl. It’s at this point that we have learned that the ship used to belong to Jack and, when Jack decides to help Will, this leads into a thrilling fight between Will and Barbossa. To keep us even more engaged during this fight, the crew of the Navy are fighting Jack’s old crew, just as Jack had planned. This makes us start to see Jack as more of a strategist and, since the crew of the Pearl are in fact cursed and are undead skeletons, it’s an interesting fight because it makes you wonder if they are actually going to win the fight. But anyways, it’s during Jack’s fight with Barbossa, that we realise that Jack is a skeleton as well as Barbossa but it’s at the end of the fight, after Elizabeth and Will have fought together against the rest of Barbossa’s crew, we see some funny moments with one guy exploding and yelping “no fair” which brings of course, that Disney flair for comedy that people love to see from time to time.
However, things begin to look bleak. Will cuts his skin which allows the curse to be lifted. I’m still not sure I understand how it works, but in that moment after, in which Barbossa is pointing a gun at Elizabeth and Jack is pointing a gun at Will, we are on the edge of our seats as we question who it is that was shot. It’s at that moment that you really love how the film’s tension is used as it’s that last minute success that people love to see when they watch a film. That’s what gets you to watch the sequels and that’s what it did for me when it came to the many films that followed it.
So anyways, in the final sequence, we see Will return the favour after Jack is about to be executed, in which Will saves Jack and you can almost see Will and Jack as friends as they face off against all of the Royal Navy’s troops until they end up utterly surrounded. There is an awesome fight in which Will and Jack are almost fighting in sync with each other, it’s almost as if Will has adopted Jack’s style of fighting, therefore painting that fine line between being a good man and being a pirate. And when Will says to the Governor that Jack is a good man as well as a pirate, we realise that people shouldn’t be defined simply by their group and, especially since this is a Disney film, it sends a clear message to the kids watching this film, that you should not judge people by the group they are associated with, which I think is great. In one of the final moments of the film, Elizabeth calls Will a pirate, almost as a compliment, which is extremely clever as it shows her acceptance of the line Will has drawn, and this leads Norrington to let Jack have a few days head start, and let him get away back to his old ship and new crew, who are kinder to him and paint a whole new picture of being a pirate. And that’s why overall, I think this is a very well made film, and one which will bring a smile to any pirate fan or simply a fan of a good comical family film.
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Images - IMDb