Ahoy there, Laughing Place readers! In anticipation for the next installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, subtitled Dead Men Tell No Tales, we're taking a look back at the franchise that laid the groundwork to this new film beginning with The Curse of the Black Pearl, which spawned three sequels and launched the franchise into a four billion dollar box office smash in years to come. When The Curse of the Black Pearl hit theatres in 2003, it marked a new turn for the Walt Disney Company and marked one of the studio's biggest gambles yet. An unenthusiastic Michael Eisner was close to cancelling the hefty $150 million dollar budgeted film when their other film based on a theme park attraction, The Country Bears flopped in theaters. Luckily for Disney, Pirates eventually moved forward launching one of the studios biggest financial juggernauts to this day.
Nearing 14 years since the launch of this theatrical series leaves us to wonder, does the film still manage to hold up as an entertaining and impressive film all these years later? Revisiting the film in anticipation of Dead Men Tell No Tales, it's particularly interesting to see just how much the franchise has evolved (for better or for worse depending on your opinion) since the first installment. Despite this, the original movie still stands as an overall delightful movie-watching experience and as an excellent stand-alone adventure when the sequels are taken out of the equation.
One of the biggest strengths of Black Pearl and even the majority of the elements of the two sequels that followed it is the ingenuity and creative style of the director, Gore Verbinski, who also directed films like Rango and The Ring. While Verbinski's films have been a bit of a mixed bag throughout his career, he brings a clever sense of blending stunning action with a well-crafted cast of characters and he knows how to bring life into his work through gripping intensity. It would be hard to imagine Black Pearl without Verbinski at the forefront and his stylistic contribution to the films helped define the very franchise into what it is today. The Curse of the Black Pearl is filled with hilarity and some beautifully gripping action sequences rounding out a story that in itself is far from perfect but remains strong enough to carry the film on its shoulders and give the characters enough emotional weight and motivation to keep the story chugging along. The film builds enough of a backstory and an environment in which the actions carried out by the characters makes sense and for the audience to connect to.
The film introduces a legacy and mythology that will continue to be expanded on in the two subsequent sequels, including the life of Bootstrap Bill Turner and Jack's turn as Captain of the Black Pearl. While these elements were not meant to be expanded upon as the original was conceived as a stand-alone project, they build themselves into the film adding layers of backstory and mythology to make this film shine in its setting. That truly helps structure the world within this movie and even when things go off the rails in At World's End, the groundwork of this world still remains something intact and important.
Above all else, The Curse of the Black Pearl remains fresh and entertaining all these years later with a great blend of comedy, action, and emotion that round up to a formula of an excellent blockbuster. Introducing great characters and amounting to a whole lot of fun, The Curse of the Black Pearl began a legacy that stands as an impressive gamble for the Disney company and certainly stands the test of time. There's no overused CGI monsters, no incompressible plot-threads, and at its core, it's basic storytelling and earnest characters allow it to amount to something truly wonderful and worth caring for.
The Curse of the Black Pearl continues to stand as a film that looked like the promising start of a franchise legacy that is still going 14 years later. If Dead Men Tell No Tales and the future of Pirates films would take a page out of Black Pearl's book, then ongoing installments to this franchise would be a welcome addition. With Dead Men Tell No Tales in theaters on May 26th, we just hope the film franchise has their heading in the right direction.