02 July 2007


I got my mom to watch Dead Man's Chest Saturday night (Look! I used the word dead again! And again!), so that At World's End would make sense to her, and we went to see that Sunday afternoon. And now I've gone all philosophical, as Gibbs might say. Not sure yet where my thoughts may take me, but there may be spoilers [Edit: spoilers for DMC, but not for AWE]. We shall see. All hands below deck!

The most obvious theme from the movies is freedom. Jack even told us in Curse of the Black Pearl that that's what a ship really is. Freedom. To go where you want, when you want, because you want to. But there's always a price to be paid for that freedom, whether it be a price on your head or something more mystical.

Another common theme is the conflict between (I)obeying the law (or Code) vs. (II) doing what's right vs. (III) doing what needs to be done. In an ideal world, of course, these three would always coincide. In our world, and in the world of Pirates of the Caribbean, they rarely do. In Curse of the Black Pearl, the conflict is primarily between (I) and (II). It's summed up nicely in this exchange:
Norrington: "One good deed is not enough to make up for a lifetime of wickedness."
Sparrow: "Though it seems enough to condemn him."
If not for his good deed, they never would have caught Sparrow to hang him. Going strictly by the law, Sparrow should be hung. Going by what is right, he must be set free. The Kraken is coming. It's a long ways to shore. If the Kraken takes long enough to take down the Pearl, they can escape. If not, they all die...unless... Unless they leave behind the other "item" that the Kraken is after: Jack Sparrow. Jack won't stay willingly, but handcuffing him to the ship ensures that everyone else will make it safely ashore. It's still wrong, but it's what needs to be done.

There are those who would call such a decision evil, and insist that by doing nothing, even if everyone dies, that their own hands are clean. I would disagree. Doing nothing is itself a choice, with its own consequences. Unless you knew for certain how long it would take the Kraken to devour the Pearl (and how long it would take to row to shore), you would be risking every life aboard. That choice has the potential for a greater good, but also for a much greater evil. Trapping Jack is the middle path between the extremes.

Another theme becomes most obvious in At World's End. It's been a common American movie theme since movies have been made, I think, and the idea goes even further back. The "evil corporation/government" vs. the "independent privateers." Nottingham vs. Robin Hood is the earliest example that comes to mind. It's been a while since I've seen a fresh take on that particular mythos. It seems...suggestive that it should come up now. There's a dance, you see. The privateers will deal and double-deal and triple-deal with anyone, so long as the corporation gets the short end of the stick when all's said and done.


John said...

The conflict between what's right and what needs to be done depends mainly on one's philosophy.

The utilitarian view would hold that hand cuffing Jack to the mast was absolutely the right thing to do.
"the good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one" (Thank you, Spock)

another argument (I don't know what philosophy this conforms to) would be that Jack has been pretty consistently selfish, and deserves to be sacrificed so that the others can escape.

I agree with you that even though it was necessary, it was still wrong. I don't know what philosophy that would be either.

I'm going to stop rambling now.

Qalmlea said...

I would agree that it's a utilitarian thing to do, but I wouldn't see that as making it "right." I know, different definitions, but I still don't see it that way. I see that as more of a cop-out to avoid responsibility, honestly.