Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a 2003 adventure fantasy film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney theme parks. It was directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The story follows blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as they rescue the kidnapped Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) from the cursed crew of the Black Pearl, captained by Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
Jay Wolpert developed a script based on the theme park ride in 2001, and Stuart Beattie rewrote it in early 2002. Around that time, producer Jerry Bruckheimer became involved in the project; he had Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio work on the script, adding the supernatural curse to the storyline. Filming took place from October 2002 to March 2003 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and on sets constructed around Los Angeles, California.
As Governor Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce) and his 12-year-old daughter, Elizabeth and Lieutenant James Norrington (Jack Davenport) , sail to Port Royal, Jamaica, their vessel encounters a shipwreck with a sole survivor, the young Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Elizabeth hides a gold medallion that the unconscious Will is wearing, fearing it will identify him as a pirate. She glimpses a ghostly pirate ship, later identified as the Black Pearl.
Eight years later, Captain James Norrington of the Royal Navy is promoted to Commodore. He proposes to Elizabeth (Keira Knightley). Before she can answer, her over-tightened corset causes her to faint and fall into the bay, where she sinks to the bottom. When the medallion she is wearing touches the seafloor, it emits a pulse.
Pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives in Port Royal to commandeer a ship. He rescues Elizabeth, but Norrington recognizes Jack as a pirate and arrests him. Jack briefly takes Elizabeth hostage in order to escape and ducks into a blacksmith’s shop, encountering Will Turner, now a blacksmith’s apprentice. After a sword duel between the two, Jack is knocked unconscious and jailed, to be hanged the next day. That night Port Royal is besieged by the Pearl, answering the medallion’s pulse. Elizabeth is captured and invokes parley. She negotiates for the pirates to stop attacking Port Royal in exchange for the medallion and lies to Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) telling him that her surname is Turner. Barbossa agrees but exploits a loophole to keep Elizabeth prisoner, believing she is the key to breaking a curse they are under.
Will, who loves Elizabeth, suggests that they make a deal with Jack Sparrow to lead them to the Black Pearl, but Norrington refuses and says Will has no say in the matter as he’s just a blacksmith. Will then persuades Jack to help him rescue her in exchange for freeing him. Jack agrees after learning Will’s surname is Turner, believing he can use Will to reclaim the Pearl. Will and Jack commandeer the HMS Interceptor and recruit a crew in Tortuga with help from Jack’s old friend, Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally). They set sail for Isla de Muerta, as Jack knows the pirates will go there to break the curse.
Will learns Jack was once captain of the Pearl, but when he shared the bearings to a chest of Aztec gold, Barbossa, Jack’s first mate at the time, mutinied and marooned him on an island. Following the Pirate Code, Barbossa gave Jack a pistol with a single shot, so that he may shoot himself rather than starve to death. Jack escaped three days later and kept the pistol for ten years; saving the bullet so that he may kill Barbossa. The pirates spent the treasure but learned it was cursed, turning them into skeletal beings whose true forms are revealed in moonlight. The curse can be lifted if the coins and each pirate’s blood is returned to the chest. William “Bootstrap Bill” Turner, Jack’s only supporter, sent a coin to his son, Will, believing the crew should remain cursed. Barbossa had Bootstrap tied to a cannon and thrown overboard, only to learn his blood was needed to break the curse; a Turner relative must take his place.
At Isla de Muerta, Barbossa, believing Elizabeth is Bootstrap’s child, anoints the last coin with her blood and drops it into the chest— the curse remains unbroken. After reaching the island, Will suspects Jack may betray him and knocks him out. He rescues Elizabeth and they escape to the Interceptor leaving Jack behind. Jack barters with Barbossa—he will reveal Bootstrap Bill’s child in exchange for the Pearl. Jack’s negotiations come to naught when Barbossa reminds him that his easygoing attitude was what lost him the Pearl. Barbossa pursues the Interceptor, and a battle ensues. Barbossa’s crew is victorious, sinking the Interceptor and imprisoning the crew. Will reveals he is Bootstrap Bill’s son and demands that Elizabeth and the crew be freed, or he will shoot himself and fall overboard, foiling Barbossa’s plan to break the curse. Barbossa agrees but applies another loophole, marooning Elizabeth and Jack on the island Jack was on ten years earlier. Will is taken to Isla de Muerta, where Barbossa plans to kill him to break the curse. On the remote island, Elizabeth discovers how Jack escaped: the island was used as a cache by rum runners and Jack managed to barter passage off.
Elizabeth burns the cache of rum to create a signal fire that Norrington’s ship spots. She convinces Norrington to rescue Will by accepting his marriage proposal. Returning to Isla de Muerta, Norrington sets an ambush while Jack persuades Barbossa to form an alliance. He tells him to delay breaking the curse until they have taken Norrington’s ship, the Dauntless. Jack’s plan goes awry when Barbossa orders his crew to infiltrate the Dauntless from underwater. Elizabeth infiltrates the Pearl and frees Jack’s crew. She tries enlisting the crew’s help, but they make off with the Pearl while Elizabeth heads to the island to aid Will. Elizabeth saves Will while Jack battles Barbossa.
Norrington spots his ship under attack and orders his men to return. They make it to the ship in time and engage the cursed pirates in battle. Meanwhile, when Barbossa attempts to kill Elizabeth, Jack shoots Barbossa. Barbossa thinks Jack just wasted his shot, but Will then drops the last two medallions, stained with his blood, into the chest. No longer immortal, Barbossa collapses and dies. The now-mortal pirates aboard the Dauntless surrender.
At Port Royal, Jack is to be executed. Believing Jack deserves to live, Will attempts a rescue. Both are captured, and Norrington says Will has forgotten his place, to which Will and Elizabeth say it’s between him and Jack. Jack falls backward and swims to the newly-repaired Black Pearl. Will is pardoned and allowed to marry Elizabeth. When asked about Jack, Norrington thinks they can afford to give him one day’s head start before giving pursuit. The crew rescues him and despite his promise to Anamaria to replace her ship, she gives him the captain’s position. The film ends with Jack looking at his compass while singing “A Pirate’s Life for Me”.
In a post-credits scene, Captain Barbossa’s monkey, also named Jack, finds his body. After seeing the chest, Jack looks into it and picks up the coins which have blood on them. The monkey becomes a skeleton again and jumps up at the camera.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film:
First Published: Dec 23, 2011 – Last Updated: Jul 20, 2013
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