Let me open with this statement: I don’t like this franchise and I am particularly not a fan of Johnny Depp. If that’s a statement you don’t like, then maybe you should turn back now, as this isn’t going to be too pretty…
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
The first and the best. We are introduced to Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, who is as eccentric as all of Depp’s characters that follow. He’s bearable for a while, but by the end he is a little annoying, drunkenly stumbling about and spouting nonsense. You got to give him credit for going all out though. Orlando Bloom is okay as another swashbuckling hero in his list of acting credits. Geoffrey Rush is pretty good as actual piratey pirate Barbossa, who stole Jack’s ship and now wants to get rid of a curse that was put upon him. The worst, by far, is Keria Knightley though as Elizabeth, who Bloom’s Will has a massive crush on. She’s constantly open mouthed and plain faced, rarely showing emotion or uttering a sentence without breathing the words from her mouth. She never gets better…
The story is good, I guess. It’s darker than those that follow. The effects and the production design are great, the one thing that is at a constant high quality throughout the series. There’s some comedy that works, but a lot that doesn’t. The action is good but after a while it just gets repetitive and boring. Granted, I will never tire of seeing these ships blow each other up, but still, there’s only so much I can take. The music however, is great. Hans Zimmer is the one constant great part of these movies and his score is such a memorable one. This film really did set the tone for the franchise and everything was only ramped up after this. But in this first entry the comedy, the action, the story and the double crossing does mostly work. But sadly it’s all downhill from here…
JACK’S SCORE: 3/5
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
The series drops in quality straight away with the second film. These films do a good job of picking up at in a nice spot after skipping some stuff between films and then letting you know where we are. By the third film too much gets skipped though. But in the second, Tom Hollander’s Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company has arrived and is determined to be rid of pirates and take control of a special chest. Said chest houses the heart of Davy Jones, Bill Nighy’s tentacle faced pirate monster who wants to settle a debt with Sparrow. Did I explain that well? I’m not sure. But this film starts off a very complex narrative that continues to the next that features so many characters, motives, twists and double crosses that I have no idea who wants what or why, let alone how they’re going to get it!
Hollander is great. He’s actually pretty menacing, which is more than can be said for Davy Jones. He looks scary, but he’s just a bit weird. The tentacles are really distracting actually, and he’s never that scary when he’s trying to make jokes. The effects and design are still great, although some parts do look a bit fake (I’m looking at you, the kraken!). There’s some parts I like, but there’s a lot of stuff that just seems thrown in because it might be cool. There’s a part on an island with some deadly encounters with some natives that barely seems necessary and a lot of overlong action scenes that defy logic and gravity. A three way sword fight seems cool, until it goes on for 15 minutes and involves a big spinning water wheel. It’s just too much…
JACK’S SCORE: 2/5
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
This movie is so overblown and super long that it’s a real slog to get through. It skips ahead in time a bit more, but barely addresses it and seems to miss out some fairly important stuff. The plot is suddenly even more complex than before. There’s a scene where six of the main characters meet to discuss the war and it only complicates things even further. Jack is helping Beckett to settle his debt with Jones but actually help Elizabeth and Will to stop them. Will helps the bad guys despite being on the side of the good guys. Elizabeth is just annoying and whiny all movie and Barbossa just wants to release some goddess, which amounts to a bit of a whirlpool. There’s about a thousand ships and only three of them actually do anything!
I will admit, some of the action is enjoyable and it all looks great effects-wise. The love story between Will and Elizabeth takes a turn and ends up being pretty garbage, they hate each other for their secrets but then suddenly they’re getting married during the final battle. The jokes miss more often than they hit and the twists are either rubbish, foreseeable or totally pointless. Overall, is this a satisfying conclusion to the Davy Jones story? In a way, I guess it is. The bad guys get what’s coming to them and the goods guys mostly prevail. But it’s just way too long and way way too complex to actually be worth watching multiple times.
JACK’S SCORE: 2/5
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
And here we are. The worst, but sadly not last, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ movie. Only a couple of the original cast are back, including Barbossa and, obviously, Sparrow, who this time face off against Ian McShane’s Blackbeard on a quest for the Fountain of Youth. The story is fairly generic, so the hopes are on the characters. The returning characters are much the same, if a little more annoying. The new characters, well, they’re pretty terrible too. Blackbeard is not menacing, he’s just McShane with some eyeliner on. He has a magical sword that can control ropes, but really, who cares? And his daughter is even worse. I’ve never really rated Penélope Cruz as an actress, but here she is awful. A terrible love interest/villain foil for Jack and with strange, contradictory motives. She really is terrible.
And the action isn’t great either. There’s one bland sword fight after another. Sometimes they never seem to end! Action just moves the scene onto the next one instead of offering anything worthwhile to the proceedings. There’s mermaids. They’re rubbish. The visual effects aren’t as great this time round. the production design is all still great, but maybe there’s just one too many effects shot and maybe some things, namely the mermaids, suffer because of that. The film tries to bring in the twists and double crosses of the previous entries, but they either don’t land or just don’t work. The one thing the film has going for it is that it isn’t as long as the other ones. Still, it is barely enjoyable at all. But then, I suppose all this isn’t too bad for a multi-billion dollar film franchise based on a theme park ride…
JACK’S SCORE: 1/5