Depp Swashes as the Plot Buckles, Daily Mail (UK), August 10, 2003
typed by Tanya
Pirates of the Caribbean
Hollywood films have taken their inspiration from many sources-novels, computer
games, magazine articles, fairy tales-but Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean surely
makes a mile-stone, even in cinema’s shameless history of idea-piracy. The movie
is based on the Disney theme parks’ Pirates of the Caribbean ride-the first such
attraction to be made into a film.
I recall this particular ride featuring in a distant, tantrum-filled family
holiday to Florida’s Disney world at that awkward age when the last thing you want
to do is dance with Minnie mouse for your father’s cine camera.
I vaguely remember taking a boat and chugging through polystyrene caves while
cutlasses were brandished at an unthreateningly safe distance, and chests of
treasure glinted in the dark.
Why the film is credited as being based on that ride rather than, say and Errol
Flynn swashbuckler is a mystery. I don’t remember following any sort of narrative
arc in Florida, but I’m relieved to report the film does have one. In fact, it has
Johnny Depp is Jack Sparrow, notorious pirate and scourge of the British fleet. He
is caught and imprisoned by our Jack Davenport, playing a dashing captain under
the command of Jonathan Pryce’s pompous island governor.
Meanwhile, the governor’s feisty and beautiful daughter, played with a
to-the-manor-born confidence by big budget newcomer Keira Knightley, is captured by
a mysterious band of pirates.
True to swashbuckling traction, the blacksmith’s apprentice (pretty Orlando Bloom)
springs Sparrow from jail and teams up with him to rescue to damsel from the
pirates-who turn out to be a motley crew of cursed ghosts led by Geoffrey Rush-and
nab some treasure.
So let’s check the list: eye patches, parrots, wooden legs, bandanas, swords,
cannons, rum, crow’s nests, rigging, gangplanks, treasure maps and toothless
The film’s makers haven’t done anything to rock the galleon. There are no
interesting twists that a little research might have unearthed, such as the fact
that there were all-women pirate crews roaming the Caribbean, as well as crews of
renegade slaves and, according to Pete Earle’s recent book The Pirate Wars,
We can’t really blame director Gore Verbinski because this is a Jerry Bruckheimer
production, and Jerry’s not exactly a stickler for veracity, as Pearly Harbor
Rehashing an old matinee staple and throwing in some zombie pirates may provide
enough fun for undemanding audiences but beneath the costumes and computers, the
script is lazy and let’s the film down.
The bright spot is Johnny Depp. Looking like a Prince charming era Adam Ant and
using an accent somewhere between Keith Richards and Tommy Cooper, Depp has a high
old time hijacking this film. He swashes and buckles, falls over and gets all the
laughs. Indeed, the film goes flat when he’s not on screen. Errol Flynn would have
been proud even though Depp’s character doesn’t seem interested in sex.
Pirates of the Caribbean have had a great US box-office success, but it is
dismayingly short of real gusto. It isn’t funny enough, the action could be more
daring and the love story could be a lot sexier. But I guess that’s what you get
when you look to Disney land for inspiration.