Posted in Film and Literature Analyses, The Death of the Fantastical in Pirates of the Caribbean

The Death of the Fantastical in Pirates of the Caribbean Part I

By: Bryan Ricardo Marini Quintana

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, directed by Gore Verbinski

The Conflicting Magical And Material Worlds

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Jack Sparrow is introduced as a captain without a ship who sails aimlessly in a sinking boat. Using his cherished compass, the infamous pirate is guided towards what he desires most, to navigate freely beyond the horizon without a destination. Throughout his story, Jack Sparrow embarks on perilous voyages in a constant chase to recover his beloved ship. For the notorious pirate, commanding the Black Pearl means being the master of his destiny. Aboard his ship, Jack Sparrow can search for adventures in the unknown world beyond the horizon, crossing the seven seas to explore the blank edges of the map. Whilst drunk on an island in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Jack Sparrow expresses the significance of his ship: “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and hull and a deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is… what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom.” With these words, the character exposes his irony as a pirate who doesn’t seek fortune by plundering ships but reveals a mariner whose most treasured possession is his freedom to sail whenever and wherever he pleases.

Using his compass, Jack Sparrow traverses through the magical world of chaos inhabited by pirates such as Hector Barbossa aboard the Black Pearl and Davy Jones aboard the Flying Dutchman, who terrorize any hapless ship they encounter. Nevertheless, these pirates navigate at the mercy of the goddess Calypso and the monstrous Kraken, who reign over the fantastical realm of the seven seas. Despite Jack Sparrow’s terror of confronting rival pirates and mythical beings, his greatest fear doesn’t emerge from the magical world of chaos but from the material world of order. Through the East India Trading Company, Jack Sparrow’s freedom to be the master of his destiny is threatened, with Lord Cutler Beckett filling the blank edges of the map and ending the Age of Exploration by claiming dominance over the seven seas for the civilized realm of Great Britain’s imperial interests.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, directed by Gore Verbinski

Opposing Jack Sparrow’s fantastical realm of chaos with the Black Pearl is Lord Cutler Beckett’s civilized realm of order with the East India Trading Company. Sailing aboard the Endeavour, this feared commander secludes himself in his cabin with a prized map of the world, designing a strategy to submit the magical world to his vision of a material world. Consequently, Jack Sparrow’s freedom in the new civilized realm becomes a threat to Lord Cutler Beckett because of his inability to exert dominance over him in the old fantastical realm. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Lord Cutler Beckett reveals his perception of the infamous pirate: “Jack Sparrow is a dying breed. The world is shrinking, the blank edges of the map filled in. Jack must find his place in the new world or perish.” With these words, the character divulges his prideful ambitions to eradicate the Age of Piracy and surface the Age of Industrialization, allowing him to govern the seven seas. However, Lord Cutler Beckett believes himself to be a just leader who shields and spreads the material world of order by structuring the unknown. Instead, this feared commander is a tyrannical ruler who crushes and restrains the magical world of chaos by oppressing the freedom of pirates to be masters of their destiny. Therefore, the East India Trading Company enslaves Davy Jones and executes the Kraken to mop up any threat from the fantastical realm that can contest their power over the seven seas in their self-imposed civilized realm.