The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has all the essential elements of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – with a few important additions: Elizabeth has abandoned the corsets for a more Peter Pan Live! approach, the zombies are back, but are going for a beach theme this time, and, wait a minute, is that – Mr. Collins?
Things get a bit more complicated in this movie, so bear with me. I will try to make this easy to follow. We have finally arrived at that time in every story where the girl must decide who she is going to choose – the wild guy, or the nice guy? In this case, Will or Jack. Honestly, I was surprised they didn’t plunge into this in The Curse of the Black Pearl, but better late than never, I suppose. Of course, the girl never does make up her mind. Elizabeth is going to waffle back and forth between the two guys for the next seven installments until we get so sick of our emotions being toyed with that we threaten to stop watching.
1. If Jack Represents Freedom, Elizabeth Represents… What, Exactly?
In Dead Man’s Chest, it becomes apparent that in addition to the surface level, there is also an allegorical level to this story. Jack Sparrow has come to mean, specifically to Elizabeth, freedom and adventure. And Elizabeth, I’m guessing, is supposed to represent the opposite, to Jack: being a good person, or choosing to do the right thing, or maybe sacrifice… I’m not really sure yet.
2. The Person, Or The Ideal?
In this movie, it is revealed that Jack’s compass, the one that supposedly “does not work,” actually points the bearer in the direction of whatever it is they want most. So, as opposed to a “moral compass,” I guess you could consider this an “immoral compass.” So now we know what guides Jack through life: his own selfish desires.
As soon as it is made clear what exactly Jack’s compass does, it is obvious that the whole idea of “what you want most” is going to be a central theme for this movie. In the beginning of the movie, Jack, weirdly enough, appears to be feeling insecure because his compass is pointing in all different directions; he does not know what he wants. Later, Elizabeth struggles with the fact that the compass keeps pointing her to Jack. While part of her knows it is true, she refuses to believe that she is falling for him. When Jack is holding the compass and it points at Elizabeth, he concludes that the treasure he is seeking is buried beneath her. Strangely enough, the treasure actually does end up being buried there, but Jack knows the truth when the compass points him back to the ship he is abandoning because Elizabeth is on board it. But the question is, does Elizabeth want Jack most – or does she simply want the freedom and adventure he embodies? Does Jack want Elizabeth – or… whatever it is she stands for?
There is this one all-important moment in Dead Man’s Chest where Jack and Elizabeth make these predictions about each other. Jack prophesies that Elizabeth will realize that he is right: she is just like him, soon, she is going to want to see what it is like to do what she wants to do, to live life for herself. Elizabeth’s return shot is that one of these times, Jack will do the right thing, because, deep down inside, he is a good man. More on this later.
4. What Just Happened?
Jack has just propositioned Elizabeth and she, disgusted, has turned him down – but she’s disturbed by the fact that she knows Jack is right: she is more like him than she would like to admit. They both have black hearts and desire freedom and adventure above everything. But then she abruptly changes course and – attempts to seduce Jack? She seems to offer him herself if he becomes a good man and makes the decision to do the right thing in a crucial moment. She is leading him on, but why? If it was just to test him, to see if he would “do the right thing,” she certainly does not act the least bit alarmed that he is totally ignoring the speech she just made and is about to kiss her. On the other hand, she doesn’t seem terribly disappointed when he has a sudden change of heart and does not kiss her, even though it was pretty obvious that that was exactly what she wanted him to do.
5. Prophecies Fulfilled
Jack’s prophecy actually does come true… sort of. When Elizabeth chains him to The Black Pearl, she is looking out only for herself – similar to something Jack would do. But… arguably, sentencing Jack to a grisly death is not what Elizabeth wants to do because she wants to do it – the thing she would like to do is see what it would be like to do is to leave Will… for Jack. This is what Jack was referring to when he said that she would do what she wanted to because she wanted to do it. So… his prophecy kind of backfired on him.
Ironically, Elizabeth prevents her prophecy from coming true because she doesn’t give Jack the chance to do what she said he would. I’m inclined to think that Jack was already planning to stay behind on The Black Pearl to meet the kraken face-to-face – contradictory to his usual style, Jack wasn’t rushing to be the first to get away, instead he was lingering on the ship, looking forlorn. His line, “It’s only a ship, love,” is not only the most serious thing he has ever said, but it’s also totally out of character. But now we’ll never know – thanks a lot, Elizabeth!
The Curse of the Black Pearl was better. Dead Man’s Chest has even more far-fetched action scenes – the see-saw and rafter combo notably makes another appearance, as well as pretty much the exact same undead crew from The Curse of the Black Pearl with a few aquatic features slapped on, not to mention the dumb-pirate duo from the last movie. However, some elements of the plot I found vastly more interesting than the plot of the first movie. Because The Curse of the Black Pearl is introducing the characters and story for the first time there is no intricate plot. The idea of falling for the “wrong girl” or the “wrong guy,” though overused, I still find intriguing – especially when Jack Sparrow is the guy. Another interesting idea is Jack’s being “marked,” hunted by the kraken – and that his desire for Elizabeth is somehow intrinsically linked to the appearance of the mark.