Had I seen it before: Yes, but it was probably around 10 years ago and I hadn’t done my proper research by watching the first two movies shortly before watching this one. So this felt like the first watch.
What IMDb says: Captain Barbossa, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann must sail off the edge of the map, navigate treachery and betrayal, find Jack Sparrow, and make their final alliances for one last decisive battle.
– At least one series of movies (Parts 3 of 5 complete)
Why I picked it: Series of movies requirement, yadda yadda yadda.
In general I like to keep these posts spoiler-free but it’s virtually impossible on this one as the movie features lead characters that died in previous movies. Read on at your own risk.
What I liked: Ultimately I really love the ending they came up with. There’s a tragic grace to it and I think our main three characters all grew a LOT since The Curse of the Black Pearl. Sweet, innocent Elizabeth Swann becomes not just a pirate captain, but a pirate king. Jack Sparrow, a character whose primary character trait thus far has been selfishness, spends the whole movie wanting to captain the Flying Dutchman only to give up this privilege so that Will can live. Will, who initially hated pirates and practiced sword fighting three hours a day so that he could kill a pirate if he ever met one, ends up as captain of the Flying Dutchman. None of these characters get an ending that is overly corny or fairytale-esque, yet they each get an ending that is transformational and beautiful in its own way.
While I’m still a little hazy on how exactly Barbossa came back (see the “what I didn’t like” section) I will say that I enjoyed the power struggle between Barbossa and Jack Sparrow. These two are not the mortal enemies they were in The Curse of the Black Pearl and neither is really the true villain of the movie. Yet there’s still enough bad blood here to keep things interesting. The fact that they are working towards similar-ish goals but never truly trust each other adds an extra dimension to the story.
What I didn’t like: I attempted to watch this movie shortly after midnight but decided to take a break after ACT 1 to get some sleep. Throughout my day there were so many plotholes bugging me that after work I said “alright, I have to re-watch the whole thing. I must’ve missed some stuff.”
Here are some of those thoughts:
- When the movie begins Barbossa, Elizabeth, Will and company are in Singapore. Do you have any idea where Singapore is in relation to the Caribbean? Go check your globe. I’ll wait.
- Ok now that you’re aware of this geographic discrepancy need I remind you that at the end of Dead Man’s Chest the heart of Davy Jones was in the hands of Lord Beckett, who was looking to control the seas on behalf of the East India Trading Company. I was lead to believe that whoever had this heart could basically destroy any ship whenever they wanted and yet I’m supposed to believe that Beckett was totally cool with this crew of pirates, including Will and Elizabeth whom he sentenced to hanging in Dead Man’s Chest, sailing from Port Royal all the way to freaking Singapore?
- Oh except when they get to Singapore Barbossa indicates that they don’t even have a ship or a crew. So now I pretty much have no choice but to believe that there were some supernatural means to make this transportation happen but I have no idea what they are.
- On another note, wasn’t freeing Jack WAY easier than what all the characters told us? They just had to “get lost” and then they were there and then they had to capsize their boat? Compared to what all these characters went through in the first two movies that seems like child’s play.
I still don’t know the answers to these questions. Here are some I also had during ACT 1 that are answered later in ACT 2. If it were up to me, I would’ve revealed some of these details a bit sooner.
- I couldn’t figure out why Barbossa had any reason to rescue Jack. I’m sure when you watch this movie again knowing the ending you can say “oh, but he mentions the pieces of eight in the beginning!” but this meant little to nothing to me upon the (sort of) first watch.
- I couldn’t figure out why Tia Dalma had any reason to want to bring Barbossa back. And even after the information that’s revealed later I still kinda wonder “ok, but out of ALL the dead people Calypso could’ve possibly revived to help release her from her human form, was Barbossa REALLY the one that made the most sense?”
One of my biggest takeaways from this movie was that if you’re going to have a universe where dead characters don’t have to stay dead, you better have clear definitions of what it takes to bring them back, good motivations for characters to want them back, reasons why other characters can’t be brought back, etc. You lose so much suspense when an audience can’t help but ask “ok but if any of these characters die, can’t Tia Dalma just bring them back?”
I thought they did a really good job with this in Dead Man’s Chest when they brought back Bootstrap Bill. It was a way of integrating him into the story but yet his fate was also terrible enough that we wouldn’t wish it upon any of our protagonists. There’s still stakes if people die because they still wouldn’t want to end up like Bootstrap Bill.
The writers seemed vaguely aware of the high potential for plot holes in this script when they have two pirates ask why Tia Dalma couldn’t just bring back Jack the way she did with Barbossa. They are told “oh, well Barbossa was just dead whereas Jack is in Davy Jones’s locker.” The fact that we never find out what all had to be sacrificed to bring back Barbossa still makes me think that Tia Dalma should be able to bring back any dead character any time.
As hinted at earlier when I was complaining about going to Singapore, Beckett seems surprisingly merciful upon receiving the heart. I think the decision to end Dead Man’s Chest with the heart of Davy Jones in this particular character’s hands was a good one. It raises the stakes and one might think there’s a new sense of urgency in terms of getting that heart back since Beckett wants to end piracy as we know it. Knowing what I know about Beckett’s character, and knowing what I know about how much power he holds in the heart of Davy Jones (that includes the Kraken, no?) I cannot for the life of me figure out why Beckett would hold off long enough for the pirates to get their shit together and fight against him. It’s just inconsistent with his character.
Will I watch it again: Yes. Maybe I just wasn’t able to appreciate this one when I was younger, but after revisiting it I really enjoyed it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of ACT 1 I can honestly say that by ACT 3 I was really feeling the movie and ultimately that made up for it.