If that sounds like a case of the tail wagging the blog, then remember to factor in that the only reason why Disney made this film in the first place, was because they had already opened a theme park ride with this title.
In 2003, Herschel and I first saw the trailer for it before Hulk. Afterwards we both agreed that neither of us wanted to go see it. Pirates, pfft. So, that was that.
And yet, somehow we found ourselves spending the next couple of weeks mis-quoting it to each other. "You'd best start believin' in email conversations, Goble, YOU'RE IN ONE!" (yes, that's probably mis-quoted) Pretty soon we realised that we needed to go see this movie after all, if only to recover from 138 minutes of Hulk.
And it turned out to be okay. Again at nearly two-and-a-half hours, Pirates Of The Caribbean (as it was commonly known back then) went on for long enough, but it didn't drag. In fact the movie uses such a duration to its advantage, taking time over its long scenes, and giving the characters a chance to talk.
And that, in my opinion, is one of several things that the makers really got right here. It's a film that constructs a world for the viewer to believe in, and then lets you get to spend some time living there.
Using very rough timings from memory, something like the first 45 minutes all take place at a port (Port Royal), where as well as a harbour there's also a fort, a government, a prison with inmates, and a blacksmith's. Once the lead character Jack Sparrow has duly escaped, something like the next hour of the film takes place at sea. When those authorities finally catch up with him a day or so later, in elongated cinema-time, it felt to me like a couple of years had passed. It had been so long since we had last seen those guys! Truly, I was immersed in this.
However it's not just the world which has been constructed with great detail, but the twisting plot, and such a cast of characters. Aside from the comic reliefs, everyone here keeps their wits about them, resulting in a story in which everyone sees a bigger picture, and no-one's word can be taken at face value.
Mr. Gibbs: "Then, on the fourth day, he [Jack] roped himself a couple of sea turtles, lashed 'em together and made a raft."
Will Turner: "He roped a couple of sea turtles."
Mr. Gibbs: "Aye. Sea turtles."
Will Turner: "What did he use for rope?"
Jack Sparrow: "Human hair."
"From my back."
Mr. Gibbs: "He's a mute, sir. Poor devil had his tongue cut out, so he trained the parrot to talk for him. No one's yet figured how."
Barbossa: "And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules."
Having enabled me to believe in this world, the film's most significant shortcoming for me would have to be the second half's descent into fantasy. The promise of an adventure of olde on the high seas with pirates, gets diluted by the science-fiction genre. The lengthy spectacle of so many computer-generated skeletons prancing lightly around in a way that was hard to reconcile with their human actor counterparts didn't help. Memo to the producers: CGI aliens look far too modern for a historical setting. Were you aiming for the same realism as Bedknobs And Broomsticks? Well then.
This morning I kept willing the characters with flesh on them to just slice the skeleton's backbones through with their swords. Swann manages to break off a forearm at one point, but he seems to be the only one.
All the same I find it interesting to note that, just as Herschel and I had been originally hooked in by the trailer's quotes, the film went onto to become a highly quotable one too. If you've seen the film yourself then I'm sure that you already have your own list of favourite lines in your head, so after rewatching most of it this morning, permit me to close with a few of mine: (they're not all funny ones)
Jack Sparrow: "One question about your business, boy, or there's no use going: This girl... how far are you willing to go to save her?"
Will Turner: "I'd die for her."
Jack Sparrow: "Oh good. No worries then."
Will Turner: "In a fair fight, I'd kill you."
Jack Sparrow: "That's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?"
Jack Sparrow: "The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can't."
Jack Sparrow: "Not just the Spanish Main, love. The entire ocean. The entire world. Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom."
Barbossa: "Find it, we did. And there be the chest... and inside be the gold. And we took 'em all. We spent 'em and traded 'em and frittered 'em away on drink and food and pleasurable company. The more we gave 'em away, the more we came to realise, the drink would not satisfy, food turned to ash in our mouths, and all the pleasurable company in the world could not slake our lust. We are cursed men, Miss Turner. Compelled by greed, we were, but now we are consumed by it."
Barbossa: "For too long I've been parched of thirst and unable to quench it. Too long I've been starving to death and haven't died. I feel nothing. Not the wind on my face nor the spray of the sea. Nor the warmth of a woman's flesh. You best start believing in ghost stories Miss Turner. You're in one."
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides