In TOP GUN: MAVERICK, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) lives a life of military obscurity. But when an upcoming special mission requires his unique knowledge, Maverick is called back to TOPGUN as a teacher and mentor to the next generation of pilots. As the past meets the present, Maverick must overcome his deepest fears and pain while training these youthful rookies what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice. This week, Richard Crouse (host of CTV’s #PopLife) and Dave Voigt (In The Seats) step into the danger zone to talk about the magic of Tom Cruise, legacy sequels, and the inevitability of age.
Honestly, I have no idea how he does it.
Thirty years after Top Gun made Tom Cruise a household name, the character has been revived for one more mission. It may seem impossible, but somehow, Top Gun: Maverick is not only as good as the original film, it’s actually better.
In Top Gun: Maverick, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Cruise) lives a life of military obscurity. Still holding the rank of captain after more than thirty years in the service, Maverick spends his days as a test pilot as he still feels that need for speed. But when an upcoming special mission requires his unique knowledge, Maverick is called back to TOPGUN as a teacher and mentor to the next generation of pilots. It’s here that he encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late co-pilot Lt. Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw. As the past meets the present, Maverick must overcome his deepest fears and pain while training these youthful rookies what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice.
After 40 years in the business, Tom Cruise seems to be an ageless wonder. Even in his mid-50s, the man maintains a boyish enthusiasm that truly makes you believe that he can do anything. In fact, he may even be the last of a dying breed of movie star. Known for the death-defying risks that he’s willing to take, the actor has continued to set the standard for action films.
But, of course, one has to wonder how long he can keep this up? While Cruise has given no indication of slowing down, no man lives forever. Eventually, age catches up with us all, right? Maverick acknowledges this certainty but still wants us to know that he’s going to make the use of every onscreen moment. For instance, there’s a moment early on in the film where Maverick faces off with a superior officer about his antics. “The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind is headed for extinction.” he growls. Turning back to the camera, Cruise glares with self-awareness and retorts, “Maybe so, sir. But not today.”
For both Maverick and Cruise, the mission isn’t over… not yet…
Simply put, Top Gun: Maverick has some of the most stunning aerial effects ever put on screen. Featuring unbelievable stunts and gravity-defying maneuvers, Maverick makes the viewer’s jaw drop from start to finish. This is not a film which attempts to trick the viewer into believing some CGI trickery. Instead, Cruise demanded that these stunts be authentic and amazing. (In fact, rumours persist that the film even shut down production for several months due to Cruise’s dissatisfaction with the film’s direction and his insistence that the cast be trained in the F-18s.)
He understood the assignment. This film needed to take your breath away.
In terms of the story, the film manages to find a balance between honouring the legacy of the original while continuing to move the story forward. Quite simply, this film is a throwback film with a modern edge. One of the great challenges of course is the film’s tone. Released in 1985, the original Top Gun is considered a classic but definitely feels as though it’s from another era. For instance, glistening volleyball games and a pre-dominantly white male cast would not be seen as modern takes on heroism. However, Maverick successfully maintains the action and sentimentality of the original while having a better sense of gender and racial inclusion. (Although, it’s worth noting that somehow the film also manages to substitute beach football for volleyball… and it works.)
At its heart, Maverick is a film about letting go and moving forward. Still haunted by Goose’s death, Maverick carries the events of his past like an open wound. He wants to move one but he simply has no idea how as he feels that more penance still must be endured for his role in what happened over thirty years ago. As a result, Maverick is determined to prevent the sorts of dangerous behaviour that defined his career from ruining the lives of the next generation. (This even includes his apprehension about allowing Goose’s son to step into the danger zone on his own.)
Even so, Maverick also recognizes that good character and a humble heart may be able to restore the relationships that have been broken by the past. Although he still has the rebelliousness of heart, there’s a humility to this version Maverick that he has gained with experience. Older and wiser, this old dog still has some new tricks that he wants to teach… so long as the next generation are willing to listen.
So yes, Top Gun: Maverick is worth the price of admission. See it with friends on the biggest screen that you can and simply enjoy the moment. And, somehow, Cruise remains in a league of his own. There will become come a time when we he will not be able to offer us films of this nature. Age is simply something that even Tom Cruise cannot out run. But, in the case of Top Gun: Maverick, we still have something special to see.
So, while there will be a moment where Cruise must hang up his stunt gear, thankfully that time is not today.
Top Gun: Maverick is available in theatres on Friday, May 27th, 2022.
“Are all pirates this stupid?”
It’s been six years since the last installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. (Tell the truth: did you miss it?) Captain Jack Sparrow et al. are back in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with the same mixture of comedy, adventure, and romance that the series is known for. It also continues with the series themes of relationships between parents and children, and the sacrificial aspects of love.
As usual, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) serves more as a catalyst than the real focus of the story. This time around the center is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner, who has been cursed to captain the Flying Dutchman, ferrying those who die at sea to the afterlife (vid. PotC: At World’s End), and Carina Smythe (Kaya Scodelario), a young woman with a scientific bent who believes she has a map to the Trident of Poseidon. Each has been condemned to die, as has Captain Jack, but when Jack’s crew rescues him (in typical PotC fashion) the three find themselves together on the search. The Trident is said to give one control of the seas. Jack wants to get his luck back. Henry wants to use the Trident to break the curse on his father. Carina seeks to honor her unknown father who left the book with her as a child.
However, Jack has also inadvertently set free a ship of the undead (including zombie sharks) lead by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Salazar had a goal of ridding the seas of pirates, but then a young Jack Sparrow tricked him into the Devil’s Triangle many years back where the ship was cursed and trapped. Now he wants his revenge. He conscripts Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack’s longtime rival (and sometime ally), to lead him to Jack. As usual, there is a load of swashbuckling and elaborate special effects.
Naturally, Henry and Carina must deal with an attraction they may not have expected. And of course, Jack nudges them towards each other from time to time. The conflict between them grows from the tension between myth and science. Henry is well versed in all the legends of the sea. Carina describes herself as a woman of science. She is an astronomer and a horologist. She thinks her science will get them what they want. Henry knows that the supernatural is where all the answers they need will be found. It is the combination of the two that lead them to the end of their quest. At times each must follow the other’s lead. They must learn, as Henry tells Carina at one point, “You don’t have to understand, just believe.” It is not so much about faith in science or the supernatural at that point—they must believe in each other.
As is often the case in PotC films, this story too includes a sacrifice made out of love. Salvation in this series of films is never “cheap grace”; there is always a price to be paid. The redemption that occurs is always bittersweet. Of course, in the world of PotC, there is always another story to come which may find a way to break the curses that came before. The sacrifices made are sometimes reversed in this series. In the world of PotC there is death and resurrection. There is damnation, but also a chance for redemption and restoration. Perhaps that is why there is always one more scene after all the credits (and there are lots of credits to sit through to see that scene). That scene tells us there is always another chapter to be written.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
This weekend, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Salazar’s Revenge in the UK) comes out in theaters. The last time Disney released a Pirates movie, it was a bit of a disaster. Or was it?
[Note: This review contains spoilers, and was written with the assumption the reader has seen the film.]
On Stranger Tides was released in 2011, garnering mixed reviews. If the box office is any indication, however, many moviegoers enjoyed the experience. Enough to ring up over a billion dollars in ticket sales. Still, popularity and critical acclaim do not always go hand in hand. Tides was the only of the Pirates movies which did not receive even one Academy Awards nomination. And deservedly so. The writing, directing, and acting (in my opinion) are all worse than in the previous three films. Although the budget was reduced to $250 million from Pirates 3’s $300 million, that is not a terribly significant drop, and the money does not appear to have been spent well. The sets look cheaper, and the props inferior. The “treasure” on Ponce de Leon’s ship certainly does not live up to Barbosa’s claim, “If forty pirates dreamt forty nights of treasure, it would not match the contents of this room.” And this is only one of the many incongruities in the film.
Tides is also also a poorer movie because it spends way too much time trying to tell the backstory of the characters instead of showing us. I recently came across a video by “Michael” from Lessons in a Screenplay. It compares Rogue One and The Force Awakens. The video examines the differences between showing and telling, active and passive protagonists, and meaningful and few consequences. He contends Rogue One is a weaker film than it could have been because it spends too much time “telling” the backstories. He uses the example of Jyn. The movie does a great job of showing her as a child, but only “tells” about her journey during the fifteen years that have passed where the story picks up. We don’t get to see her grow up; we just get a list of her crimes – without knowing the circumstances which would cause us to empathize with her.
I could write another post examining how the Lesson in a Screenplay video applies to Tides, but the dialog below will serve, at least, as an illustration of “telling rather than showing” – before I move on to writing about spiritual themes, as I have done in my previous Pirates reviews. The missionary, Philip Swift, is actually an essential character to the plot, yet this is about all the backstory we get.
Jack: Oi. What did that poor sod do? How can I make sure to not?
Scrum: Him? Churchly fellow. Always going on about the Lord Almighty.
Jack: Bible-thumper on this ship?
Scrum: A missionary’s the story. What I heard was he got captured in a raid. Rest of the ship got killed – but not him. First Mate wouldn’t let it happen, on account of his premier standing with the Lord. First Mate sticking her neck out for some prisoner? That you don’t see.
The First Mate is, of course, Angelica, a former nun aspirant, who was “corrupted” by Jack Sparrow. Angelica insisted Philip not be killed, in hopes her father, Blackbeard, would find salvation. The problem is, instead of converting him, she is becoming more and more like him—willing to do anything to get what she wants. She is willing to give up her own life to prolong his, but doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. She is not so much interested in changing him (or herself) as in trying to get him to meet the requirements to avoid Hell. She reminds me, in a way, of one of the descriptions Jesus gives of the Pharisees.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15 NIV)
I wonder how many “evangelicals” today have become like Angelica and the Pharisees. They want people to convert, but they aren’t really interested in becoming the people Jesus describes as belonging to the Kingdom. Accepting Christ used to include a certain morality and compassion for others. Too much of what I see today is just wanting to find the loopholes to escape the judgment of God. The salvation Jesus offered is more than just a rescue from Hell; it is a rescue from ourselves and our pirate ways.
Philip is not like Angelica. He genuinely cares about people. Although he despises the actions of Blackbeard, he tells him there is still hope for his salvation.
Blackbeard: My daughter fears for my soul, what’s left of it. You truly wish to save me, my child.
Angelica: Every soul can be saved.
Blackbeard: Be that true, young cleric?
Philip: Yes. Though you I see as a bit of long shot. Still, I pray for every unfortunate soul on this hellbound vessel.
Blackbeard: You disarm me with your faith.
It seems from his words Blackbeard may be coming around, but he is actually being sarcastic. He goes through with the plan to punish the cook, who was on watch when the mutiny was carried out. Blackbeard is trying to get the missionary to renounce his faith. He mocks Philip.
Blackbeard: So, you, now –chance to show the worth of your prayers. Pray he be delivered from…evil? COURSE MADE!
Philip: STOP! GIVE THAT MAN A CHANCE! GIVE YOURSELF…
[Flames from the ship begin to burn the longboat with the cook in it.]
Blackbeard: You know when I feel closest to our Maker? When I see suffering, pain, and anguish. That’s when the true design of this world is revealed.
Philip: And I see it revealed when in times of hardship and tragedy, kindness and compassion are shown to those in need.
Blackbeard: Perhaps you should pray for him to be unharmed, yes?
Philip: Please, there’s still hope…
[The logboat and the cook are consumed.]
Blackbeard: Aye. She will burn, but I cannot wait for the sun. Perhaps we should build a fire.
Blackbeard: Do not contest me, cleric.
Philip: You will not torture her!
Angelica: We need only one tear.
Blackbeard: I will tear every scale from her body one by one if I see fit. If that displeases you, go pray.
Philip: I was wrong. Not every soul can be saved. Yours cannot.
Blackbeard: Behold, gentlemen! A man formerly of faith.
Philip has not given up on his faith; he has given up on Blackbeard. His love for Syrena has stretched his compassion to the limit.
The relationship between Philip and Syrena is an enigmatic one. Not just because he is a man and she a mermaid. It is enigmatic in part because the movie does a poor job of making it understandable. But, if you follow what happens very closely, here is how it developed:
The “relationship” begins when Syrena pulls Philip from the boat. The mermaids are being rounded up, and they begin to attack the longboats. From a later conversation between them, we find Syrena had seen something “different” in Philip from the beginning.
Philip: Such beauty. Surely you are one of God’s own creations and not a descendant of those dark creatures who found no refuge on the Ark. Such beauty. Yet deadly.
Syrena: Deadly. No.
Philip: You attacked me.
Syrena: No…you are different.
Syrena: Are you not? You protect.
Philip: …You pushed me down out of the way.
Philip is beginning to understand. Syrena is not some dangerous siren that seeks his destruction. She did not pull him from the boat to kill him, but to rescue him. Sometimes what we think are circumstances meant to destroy us are actually designed to save us. We often don’t see this until much
later. Before the mermaids come up to the surface, the sailors in the longboats discuss the legends about them.
Ezekiel: There’ll be mermaids upon us within the hour, you mark my words! And we’re the bait!
Derrick: I heard it said that a kiss from a mermaid protects a sailor from drowning.
Ezekiel: Don’t be a fool. Mermaids are all female, son. And lovely as a dream of heaven. But when it comes to churn butter, so to speak, they snatch a sailor off a boat or the deck of a ship, have their way, then the sailors are pulled to bottom, and drowned… AND EATEN!
There are two stories about mermaids. Which one is true? Or are they both? It probably depends on those who encounter them. Ultimately, according to this story, Philip finds some kind of salvation in Syrena. We all are in need of forgiveness. She was willing. He just needed to admit his guilt and ask.
Syrena: You are hurt.
Philip: In body only. My mind is at peace. Because of you.
Philip: Yes. I was lost. The winds, the tides…they ought to renew a man’s faith. For me, only you.
Syrena: Philip, I can save you. You need only ask.
Philip: I seek but one thing.
Syrena: What is that?
Philip: Forgiveness. If not for me, you’d have never been captured.
Philip: Forgive me.
[She kisses him and pulls him under the water. We never see them again.]
Before this scene, Syrena surfaces, giving the chalices to Jack, telling him, “Do not waste my tear.” Why she would do this is unclear. She has briefly encountered Jack before when he “supported the missionary position” to open the glass coffin enough for Syrena to get air. But this doesn’t seem enough for her to go out of her way to retrieve the cups and give them to him. Nevertheless, he is able to use them to get the last few drops from the destroyed fountain. The Spanish have pulled down the fountain because, “Only God can grant eternal life. Not this pagan water.” (King George ironically had bristled early in the film about the Catholic Spanish Monarch using the Fountain to gain eternal life.)
Christianity has a long history of destroying “pagan” relics—including its books of history and legend. The Spanish were particularly zealous to destroy the paganism they found in the New World. In the process, they committed many atrocities. Some practices, like human sacrifice, were certainly worthy of being eliminated. If the Fountain of Youth were real, along with its ritual requiring the death of one soul to provide life for another, certainly it was good to tear it down so no one could use it again. In this tale, the last drops Jack acquires apparently serve its final use.
Christianity is based on an Innocent dying for others to save them. Neither Angelica nor Blackbeard are innocent, but it could be argued Angelica was the more worthy. But, who are we to make such judgments? Jack loses a part of his soul, I think, by playing God in this instance. He deceives them so Angelica lives and Blackbeard dies—just the opposite of what either of them intends. And, despite admitting his… stirrings? … feelings? … for her, he leaves the one he has saved from certain death on a deserted island. What is the purpose in that?
In my review of At World’s End, I concluded “Jack has learned to think and feel beyond himself. He has changed.” I guess Jack has terribly backslidden, as we used to call it. The ending of the movie is an anti-dénouement. It resolves nothing, and leaves us with a rather nihilistic view of the world. Jack abandons the woman he loves, Barbossa returns to piracy, and – in the after-credits scene, Angelica relishes the thought of using VooDoo to torture Jack.
Whether or not any of this will have anything to do with Dead Men Have No Tales, we have to wait a few days to find out. I just hope there is something more hopeful in it than we found in most of On Stranger Tides.
Jack Sparrow is taken, body and soul, to a place not of death, but punishment. The worst fate a person can bring upon himself. Stretching on forever. That’s what awaits at Davy Jones’ locker.
Theologians have long debated the existence and nature of Hell. Tia Darma’s words (meant to explain why she could bring back Barbossa but not Jack) are a pretty accurate description of the traditional view of the place of torment. Disney’s Locker, however, it not a place where Jack is being “tormented in the flames,” (Luke 16:24), but somewhere where Jack’s own psyche is constantly tormenting him. In the original 2008 Limited Edition bonus feature “The Tale of Many Jacks,” the creators explain how each of the many Jacks are elements of his personality. The only things in Davy’s Locker causing his anguish are what he has brought there himself.
People sometimes joke about wanting to go to Hell because there they would be able to party with all their friends forever. But, if there is a Hell, and it is anything like Davy’s Locker, it is a place where you finally have to face yourself. Perhaps the hardest thing for anyone is being alone. In our society, even when no one else is around we have the television and other electronic media to keep us company. Meditation in seclusion has become a lost art. Nor were we meant to be alone forever.
When we were first introduced to Jack Sparrow, he was alone in a small fishing vessel. But composer Hans Zimmer chose to introduce him with a majestic melody, which would be expanded and modified in various ways through the films. Often referred to as the theme for Pirates of the Caribbean, it is, more accurately, Jack’s theme, always associated with him. Below is a YouTube clip to remind us how Jack is introduced to us in the series. [“The Medallion Calls” is the name for the entire scene in The Curse of the Black Pearl.]
The same theme is repeated near the beginning of Dead Man’s Chest. Even though Jack is only “piloting” a coffin.
I couldn’t find a clip of this, but at the end of Dead Man’s Chest, the theme is modified into a dirge as the group sails upriver to Tia Darma’s shack. We see candles lit for Jacks’ funeral. The theme is used for the first time (unless I somehow missed it) in At World’s End for the scene in Davy’s Locker where The Black Pearl “sails” across the sand.
I have always thought it fascinating the heart of this musical theme sounds eerily like an obscure hymn I used to sing when I attended Moody Church in Chicago in the late 1970s. I was attending Moody Bible Institute at the time, training for the ministry. I seriously doubt Hans Zimmer ever heard – or heard of – the mid-twentieth-century evangelical melody written by John W. Peterson. But I cannot hear the theme in the movies without these words running through my head:
All glory to Jesus begotten of God
The great I Am is He
Creator sustainer but wonder of all
The Lamb of Calvary
To think that the guardian of planets in space
The Shepherd of the stars
Is tenderly leading the church of His love
By hands with crimson scars
During the worship services I attended, “All Glory to Jesus” was directed in a much quicker rhythm and in a more majestic style than the recording below. (For a short clip in a style a bit more like the Pirates theme, check out MyMidi.audio.)
I bring up this strange coincidence to point out the parallel between the man for whom Zimmer wrote a theme, and the Man for whom Peterson wrote that musical accolade. Both came back from the dead. Fantasy tales often have people coming back from the dead. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is sent back from the dead to complete his mission. Jack is rescued from Davy’s Locker because he is needed for the last “piece of eight” so Tia Darma can be released from her “single form.” As dangerous as it my seem, Tia must again become Calypso to rescue the pirates from their certain doom. The Brethren Court must be convened.
The call has gone out to the rest of the Pirate Lords through means of a song. “Hoist the Colors” is a defiant pirate anthem on the order of the “Star Spangled Banner.” It tells the story of Davy Jones and Calypso, and how the First Brethren Court bound her. Calypso is the “queen in bed” the young boy at the beginning of the movie sings about. “The King” is the Pirate King of the First Court. The song continues until the large group of pirates and pirate collaborators on their way to the gallows join in. This is what East India Trading Company Chairman Lord Beckett wants. He wants them to convene so he can destroy them in one fell swoop.
The King and his men
stole the Queen from her bed
and bound her in her bones
the seas be ours and by the powers
where we will we’ll roamYo ho, all hands
Hoist the colors high
Heave ho, thieves and beggars
Never shall we die
The bell has been raised
from its watery grave
Hear its sepulchral tone?
A call to all
pay heed the squall
and turn yourself toward homeYo ho, haul together
Hoist the colors high
Heave ho, thieves…
Bootstrap: …It was always in my blood to die at sea.
Will: It’s not a fate you had to choose for yourself either.
Bootstrap: I… I could say I did what I had to when I left you to go pirating. But it would taste a lie to say it wasn’t what I wanted.
We are sinners both by nature and by choice. Circumstances in life certainly influence our actions but, ultimately, the choices we make are ours alone. The Court of the Brethren is able to help give pirates a measure of freedom, but true freedom only comes through a changed life. That’s why Christ’s resurrection is different. His mission was not just to defeat the enemy, but to make us into a New Creation.
The Curse of the Black Pearl began with a ditty created by George Edward Bruns and Francis Xavier Atencio for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland. Dead Man’s Chest early on uses Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dead Man’s Chest” from Treasure Island. Can you build good movies from ditties? I will leave that for the viewer to decide. I’d rather talk about the spiritual themes in the movies. [By the way, my series on the first four Pirates movies are being written with the assumption the reader is familiar with the films. If you have yet to see Dead Man’s Chest, it would be helpful for you to view it before reading on.] After the thwarted wedding scene (more on that later), Gibbs is seen singing (if you can call it that) the song just as Stevenson wrote it:
Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Stevenson makes an unusual use of the idiom “done for,” as in “we’re done for.” Such is the life of a pirate. They are “done for” because they are in league with the bottle and Beelzebub. Decisions have consequences. Dead Man’s Chest is filled with people trying the use said chest to gain freedom from the consequences of their actions.
Jack Sparrow has made a deal with the Devil. In return for being able to captain the Black Pearl for 13 years, he agrees to serve on the Flying Dutchman for 100. Jack’s time is up, and he knows it. He knew it even before Bootstrap Bill comes to tell him. That’s why he braves sneaking into the pirate prison to find the “drawing” of the key. He needs to find out more about the key and the chest in order to get out of the deal he has made. But he is conflicted—as Tia Darma will say much later in the film, “Jack Sparrow does not know what he wants.”
We do not understand, until Darma tells us, why Jack’s compass is not working properly. As in a good detective story, we are given hints, but the solution is not immediately apparent. And it won’t be until the next movie that we understand the consequences of destroying the heart hidden in the chest. No wonder Jack is conflicted. He wants a way out, but none of the solutions presenting themselves are satisfactory. Stranded on the deserted island with Elizabeth in the first movie, he tells her:
Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.
But even if he has the Pearl, and controls Davy Jones by holding his heart, what kind of freedom is that? Rather than go where he pleases, he would have to shadow the Flying Dutchman forever to keep Jones in check. And, if he kills him outright, there is still the “beastie” waiting for him. And there’s also that “honest streak”—a desire to be a “good man”… which Elizabeth will turn to her advantage.
Which brings us back to the thwarted marriage. Elizabeth is frustrated. She wants to be married to Will. In her prison cell, she tells Will (to the disconcertment of her father), “If it weren’t for these bars, I’d have you already…. I’ll wait for you.” But that wait is far from a patient one. Incognito on a ship in her search for Will, she overhears the crewmen talking about the stowaway they know is on board. Finding her dress, they surmise:
Sailor #2: There is a female presence amongst us here, sir. All the men, they can feel it. [agreement from the Crew]
Sailor #3: Belongs to a lady widowed before her marriage, I figure it. Searching for her husband lost the sea.
Sailor #4: Virgin, too, likely as not. And that bodes ill by all accounts.
The comment about her being a “virgin” certainly adds to Elizabeth’s frustration. What would she be willing to give to have her Will?
There is an interesting conversation between Elizabeth and Jack on the deck of the Pearl before they meet up with Will.
Jack: My tremendous intuitive sense of the female creature informs me that you are… troubled.
Elizabeth: I just thought I’d be married by now. I’m so ready to be married.
Jack: [Jack pops open a bottle of rum, hands it to her and she takes a drink, looking upset] You know… [clears throat] Lizzie, I am Captain of a ship and being Captain of a ship I could, in fact, perform a marriage right here. Right on this deck. Right now.
Elizabeth: [Elizabeth looks even more disgusted, hands him the bottle and walks away] No, thank you.
Jack: [follows her] Why not? We are very much alike you and I. I and you… us.
Elizabeth: Except for a sense of honor and decency and a moral center. And personal hygiene.
Jack: Trifles. You Will come over to my side, I know it.
Elizabeth: You seem very certain.
Jack: One word, love: curiosity. You long for freedom. You long to do what you want to do because you want it. To act on selfish impulse. You want to see what it’s like. One day… you won’t be able to resist.
Elizabeth: Why doesn’t your compass work?
Jack: My compass works fine.
Elizabeth: Because you and I are alike. And there will come a moment when you have a chance to show it. To do the right thing.
Jack: I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by.
Elizabeth: You’ll have the chance to do something… something courageous. And when you, you’ll discover something. That you’re a good man.
Jack: All evidence to the contrary.
Elizabeth: [laughs] No, I have faith in you. You want to know why?
Jack: Do tell, dearie.
Elizabeth: [leans in close with each sentence] Curiosity. You’re going to want it – a chance to be admired – and gain the rewards that follow. You won’t be able to resist. You’re going to want to know what it tastes like.
Jack: I do want to know what it tastes like.
Elizabeth: [Jack caresses her cheek] But seeing as you’re a good man, I know that you’d never put me in a position that would compromise my honor. [Jack is ready to kiss her when he sees the black mark return to the palm of his hand and snatches his hand away.] I’m proud of you, Jack.
Elizabeth and Jack are both conflicted, as indicated in how the compass is reacting. Elizabeth can’t hide her feelings for the “bad boy” Jack, but tries to cover it up with talking about goodness and honor. But she is beginning to play him. She is toying with his feelings, and will turn it to her advantage later. When the Kraken attacks, Jack tries to escape in a longboat, but changes his mind, choosing the courageous act. Elizabeth, however, is unwilling to give up her life – including her assured life with Will – and chooses Jack’s last “heroic” act for him by chaining him to the mast. So much for compromising her honor. She has already done that herself.
Earlier in the film, Davy Jones tells the sailors who are about to die: “Do you fear that dark abyss? All your deeds laid bare. All your sins punished. I can offer you an escape…. Do you not fear death?” What are people willing to do to thwart death—to avoid the final judgment – at least temporarily? Sparrow later was willing to trade himself for 100 souls. Jones asks him, “But I wonder, Sparrow… can you live with this? Can you condemn an innocent man – a friend – to a lifetime of servitude in your name while you roam free?” Jack responds flippantly, “Yep. I’m good with it.”
Elizabeth trades Jack’s life for a handful of souls in a longboat. Is she fine with that? Not really. But that’s another story…
I leave you with a couple scriptures to contemplate:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Mark 8: 34-37 NIV
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV
There is an interesting exchange between Will Turner and Jack Sparrow as they are walking underwater, using a small boat to create an air pocket. As they approach the Dauntless, Will quips, “This is either madness or brilliance.” Jack replies, “It’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.”
Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl is both “madness and brilliance.” Hidden in its craziness are some brilliant scenes and dialogue. Of course, a movie based loosely on an amusement ride can be expected to be a bit frivolous, but Black Pearl also has some themes, hidden in the silliness, which are rather spiritual. The most obvious one is, of course, being cursed for eternity.
That’s exactly what I thought when we were first told the tale. Buried on an Island of Dead what cannot be found except for those who know where it is. Find it, we did. There be the chest. Inside be the gold. And we took ’em all. We spent ’em and traded ’em and frittered ’em away on drink and food and pleasurable company. The more we gave ’em away, the more we came to realize—the drink would not satisfy, food turned to ash in our mouths, and all the pleasurable company in the world could not slake our lust. We are cursed men, Miss Turner. Compelled by greed, we were, but now we are consumed by it.
What a perfect description of what sin does to us. C. S. Lewis, and many Christian writers before him, spoke of a desire which cannot be fulfilled by anything in this life. Blaise Pascal, the famous seventeenth century mathematician and physicist, wrote about what has been referred to as a “God-shaped hole” in our lives:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [Pensées VII(425)]
St. Augustine of Hippo also opined in his fourth century “Confessions“: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
The cure for the curse in the film is a bit different than the cure for sin, however. The Aztec gold, blood money which the Aztecs paid Cortez “to stem the slaughter he wreaked upon them with his armies.” However, Cortez did not relent from his slaughter, so the “heathen gods placed upon the gold a terrible curse. Any mortal that removes but a single piece from that stone chest shall be punished for eternity.” In order to break the curse, the pirates had to restore all the gold they had stolen, and provide blood from each person who had stolen any of it. It apparently did not matter that in order to restore the gold, the pirates had to continually raid ships, towns, and villages to recapture what they had “frittered away” – in much the same way the prodigal son had squandered away his inheritance. But the cure could only restore the pirates to what they were before—mere unscrupulous mortals. They may again be able to enjoy food and gratify their lust, but true satisfaction will still elude them.
Not all pirates are totally unscrupulous. Captain Jack tells Will that his father Bootstrap Bill was both a pirate and a good man. As the pair make their way out to sea in the “commandeered” Interceptor, they fight over whether Will’s father was a pirate. Literally crossing swords, Will claims Jack could never best him in a “fair fight.” Jack responds:
Then that’s not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it? [moves one of the sails so that the yard catches Will and swings him out over the sea] Now, as long as you’re just hanging there, pay attention. The only rules that really matter are these – what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that some day. Now, me, for example, I can let you drown but I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesy, savvy? So… [swings him back on board and offers him his sword] can you sail under the command of a pirate? Or can you not?
Although Jack’s philosophy is rather ends-justify-the-means and situation ethics, there does seem to be a difference in pirates. Jack definitely is self-serving in almost everything he does, but there are some glimpses of humanity in him (in a good sense) from the beginning of the movie – and throughout. When we meet Captain Sparrow, we see him sailing into Port Royal. We see the bones of three pirates hanging there as a warning, and Jack takes time to salute them. Soon afterward, he rescues Elizabeth, who has fallen into the sea. What his motives are probably not entirely altruistic, but he does save her – at risk to himself. Commodore Norrington soon discovers his true identity, leading to this dialog:
Elizabeth : Pirate or not this man saved my life.
Norrington: One good deed is not enough to redeem a man of a lifetime of wickedness.
Jack : Though it seems enough to condemn him.
While Norrington’s desire for “law and order” is commendable, he reminds me of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. It seems he would not be pleased if all of piratedom were to repent and begin to do good deeds. After all, as he says, good deeds are not enough to redeem a pirate – or a son – of a life of prodigal living. Redemption requires a willingness for restoration on the part of the father – or the state.
Thankfully, our Father is so willing. The questions that remain are: are we willing to return? and, will we welcome our “younger brother” when he returns?