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(Spoilers ahoy!)
Elizabeth Swann was a girl when there came
A boy from the ocean, Will Turner by name.
She feared him a pirate and took a gold coin
And hid it for years to protect him from shame.
When both are now grown with a love they won’t share,
The Commodore Norrington tries to declare
An offer of marriage she’s not quick to join,
Till Captain Jack Sparrow arrives debonair.
Locked up for his crimes, he’s surprised at the sight
Of his former ship, the Black Pearl, in the night.
Attracted by gold, the fiends capture Miss Swann,
Who lies to convince them to shove off forthright.
The Captain Barbossa abducts the lass too,
Revealing the curse on himself and his crew.
As they sail away, Will is adamant on
Releasing Jack Sparrow to hotly pursue.
Collecting a crew in Tortuga, Jack sails
For Isla de Muerta, where lies and betrayals
Come out and succeed in imprisoning Will,
While Jack and Miss Swann are marooned by details.
With Norrington’s aid, they return to save Will,
And swordfights galore offer many a thrill.
Barbossa is slain, and true love they fulfill,
While Jack takes the Black Pearl to roam the seas still.
When Lord Cutler Beckett, for whom business reigns,
Desires Jack’s compass, he goes to great pains,
Convincing first Will, then Elizabeth too,
To find Jack or else be committed to chains.
While Jack’s being Jack, he is shocked at a guest,
Old Bootstrap Bill Turner, Will’s father oppressed,
Who says Jack must pay up the debt that is due;
For now Davy Jones wants his soul on request.
Jack flees to an island, which Will also finds,
Where cannibals threaten with changeable minds.
Escaping the danger, they take a detour,
And witch Tia Dalma lends help of all kinds.
Jack haggles with Jones for the sake of his soul
And buys three more days at a difficult toll.
Tortuga yields souls, since they needn’t be pure,
While Will gives his father a promise and goal.
Jack finds Norrington and Elizabeth Swann,
Both desperate but willing to quickly move on,
For Jones’s live heart beats within a locked chest,
And he who should find it could make him a pawn.
The chest is discovered, but fighting begins
‘Twixt Norrington, Jack, and Will, none of whom wins.
As Jones’s own crew arrives at his behest,
The heart’s snatched to make up for Norrington’s sins.
As Jack tries to run, Jones awakens his pet,
The Kraken, to finally settle the debt.
His crew fleeing, Jack has no choice but to stay;
His unwilling sacrifice might end the threat.
With Jack and the Black Pearl devoured away,
The heart is Lord Beckett’s, to Jones’s dismay.
A plan to bring Jack back is soon underway,
With help from an old foe, whom death could not stay.
As Beckett is wiping out all buccaneers,
Assisted by Jones and his heart-involved fears,
Barbossa and friends are in far Singapore
In search of a map to the final frontiers.
With help from Sao Feng, one of nine pirate lords,
They head for the edge, after drawing their swords.
In Davy Jones’ Locker, they find Jack ashore,
Where he is kept company by crabby hordes.
So, one green flash later, there’re lies and betrayal
With Sao Feng and Beckett and all who set sail.
They learn that Calypso was Davy Jones’ lover,
A sea god imprisoned with flesh as her jail;
Barbossa will free her to aid in their plight.
Elizabeth’s made pirate lord in the night.
To Shipwreck Cove, all of the pirates take cover,
Debating on whether to lie low or fight.
Elizabeth’s named as the new Pirate King,
Deciding their one hope is swashbuckling.
They set free Calypso, who’s in a bad mood,
For Jones once betrayed her, a deep-seated sting.
The Pearl and the Dutchman engage in a storm,
A gift from Calypso, now back in true form.
Jack goes for the heart, that the fight may conclude,
Though he who kills Jones must his duties perform.
The maelstrom keeps raging amid the bloodshed.
While fighting, both Will and Elizabeth wed.
Though Jack had intended to finish the heart,
Another has more need for Davy Jones dead.
The tables are turned as the cannons restart,
And Lord Cutler Beckett’s own plans fall apart.
While true love endures, Sparrow’s shipmates depart,
But Jack’s well-prepared for a new course to chart.

With all the uninspired movies reading “based on a video game,” who could have foreseen that a series of swashbuckling greatness could be derived from a theme park ride? Pirates of the Caribbean was certainly a surprise when The Curse of the Black Pearl came out over a decade ago, but subsequent viewings have only raised my opinion of this action-packed, often convoluted franchise. Don’t bother with On Stranger Tides, though; it’s just not the same.

The Curse of the Black Pearl is the one that started it all, one of the few modern films to effectively introduce an instantly iconic character, Captain Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp has always been drawn to the weird and eccentric, and his career has fluctuated wildly because of it; but here he hit his ideal stride and earned a Best Actor nomination for it. Sparrow is dashing, cunning, a bit creepy and disgusting, yet strangely alluring in a grimy sort of way, usually one step ahead of the rest, full of comic bravado and a latent good heart. He steals every scene while complementing all the other actors, like Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann, semi-iconic characters in their own right. Their love story has its predictable ups and downs but also possesses that epic romantic quality that eludes many other films. A good villain always improves a film, and Geoffrey Rush is one heck of a pirate. His sneering negotiations and ruthlessness make him a memorable antagonist, and the creepy but incredible skeleton curse just augments the menace of him and his crew. Add in some powdered wigs, wondrous sword fights, clever dialogue, Oscar-nominated special effects, and one of the greatest scores of all time by Klaus Badelt (seriously, no other score captures and enhances the spirit of the film itself as this rip-roaring soundtrack, taken over by Hans Zimmer for the sequels), and Disney had a winner on their hands.

I don’t know how the filmmakers did it, but Dead Man’s Chest ups the ante in every way and remains the only Pirates film to win an Oscar, for Best Visual Effects. It introduces yet another historic villain in the form of Bill Nighy’s squid-faced Davy Jones and, to a lesser extent, Tom Hollander’s Godfather-like Lord Cutler Beckett with his obsession with “business.” This second film is the king of set pieces, varied, outlandish, and absolutely awesome! From the swinging cages on Pelegosto to the Kraken’s attacks to the astonishing three-way water-wheel duel, Dead Man’s Chest is replete with some of the best action sequences I’ve seen. As pure entertainment, it’s a twisting, crowd-pleasing thrill ride with a jaw-dropping surprise ending that left everyone in the theater clamoring for more.

When they finally got more, some may not have been entirely satisfied. Shot back-to-back with its predecessor, At World’s End has much of what made the first two great (the characterizations, breathtaking action on an even larger scale) but mixed with an unfortunate bloatedness. Even after several viewings, the film can seem like an overstuffed mess, with loads of conflicting motivations, changing allegiances, mythic plot devices, and ship-hopping. It all evens out by the finale, but the middle of the film is unnecessarily confusing. Plus, Jack’s eccentricities are morphed into full-fledged bizarreness, with strange visions of the afterlife adding nothing to the plot and scenes of multiple Jack Sparrows thrown in seemingly just for the sake of spending the film’s colossal budget. In addition, the expansion of Tia Dalma’s role brought out the fact that her Jamaican accent is incomprehensible at times; as with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, my VC couldn’t understand her the first time out. All that being said, ongoing viewings have increased my overall opinion of the film, including its bittersweet ending. The most impressive scene is easily the long final battle amidst a raging whirlpool that would put Charybdis to shame. As a stand-alone film, At World’s End is rather weak, but as an epic conclusion to the trilogy, it’s better than it seemed at first.

Though Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is being shot now for a 2017 release, I doubt that Jerry Bruckheimer’s lightning will strike again, as it did with the original films, especially the first and second. Rarely have action, characters, music, and romance been combined into such an entertaining package. This year’s Tomorrowland seems to be Disney’s next shot at adapting one of their attractions, but it’s unlikely to compare to one of Disney’s most surprisingly successful franchises.

Best line from The Curse of the Black Pearl: (Captain Barbossa) “You best start believing in ghost stories, Miss Turner.  You’re in one!”

Best line from Dead Man’s Chest: (Elizabeth) “There will come a time when you have a chance to do the right thing.”  (Jack) “I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by.”

Best line from At World’s End: (Barbossa) “Aye… we’re good and lost now.”   (Elizabeth) “Lost?”   (Barbossa) “For sure, you have to be lost to find a place that can’t be found, elseways everyone would know where it was.”

Rank: 59 out of 60

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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