The Pirates Movie That Should Not Have Been

(Spoiler warning, btw.)


That I like the PotC franchise used to be one of the first things people knew about me, but I gave that up to become merely a closet fan after writing a feminist essay about it*. In fact, I didn’t think of myself as much of a fan at all.

It turns out the only thing that could revive my interest in it is outrage. First, I was upset when I found out that Johnny Depp had decided to take on a role in the Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise instead of continuing to make Pirates movies.

Having seen the last Pirates film, I now think he quit one movie too late.

I will say this, Dead Men Tell No Tales (hereafter DMTNT) had some good moments. The explanation of how Jack Sparrow got his name (as opposed to being called Jack Teague) was really clever. I would have wholesomely enjoyed that flashback scene if the CGI wasn’t so awful, and if it didn’t directly contradict the other movies and Jack’s backstory in general.

DMTNT was *just* good enough to demonstrate what a great movie it could have been…if the writers hadn’t screwed it up so badly.

In all the other movies, Jack is not great at the basic, practical elements of piracy**. This is true in the fifth movie as well. Except that they missed the part that he is really, really good at being a lousy pirate. He’s like a basketball player who makes all the trick shots but can’t play on a team.

DMTNT really lost me when Jack walks into the bar and sees his wanted poster with an ever decreasing monetary reward for his capture. That’s not Jack.

Jack is the person who is at first glance mistaken (key word) for “the worst pirate” one might have heard of, and then quickly proves himself to be otherwise.

In contrast, the Jack Sparrow in DMTNT is just a smarmy drunk who used to be a good pirate, and does virtually nothing that has an impact on the plot.

And I’m sure I don’t have to remind you all of Jack’s fantastic monologues. But I will. The time in Dead Man’s Chest when he explains why what happened to Norrington was really William Turner’s fault. His speech at the Brethren Court, during which he quotes Shakespeare and speaks Latin. (Both of which imply that he has been to university at some point. The writers may not have intended this, depending on how much they know about history, but nevertheless it does.)

Where did those go? I can’t think of a single, remotely clever thing Jack says in DMTNT, let alone a monologue.

The videogame did a better job of capturing his wit. There’s one moment in particular. Captain Teague goes to break Jack out of jail and says something like, “You’d sleep through your own hanging, Jacky.”

To which Jack responds, “I always assumed they’d wake me.”


It’s not just Jack’s character who suffers in this movie, although those sins are in my mind the most unforgivable. The movie makes numerous logical missteps, in this case indicative of poor writing rather than fanciful leaps the other movies used to make their stories work. I will provide a short list of sins. Not a full list, because many of them I am still trying to erase from my memory, but a short list. Feel free to provide more of your own in the comments.

  • If Barbosa was Carina’s father, why didn’t he already know all about his own journal and the island it led to?
  • Speaking of Barbosa, why is he back on the fake nobility kick he clearly abandoned in On Stranger Tides?
  • In Dead Man’s Chest Tia Dalma states that Jack bartered his compass from her, contradicting the flashback scene in DMTNT.
  • Dead men tell no tales? Posidon’s trident? Really? Well, I suppose they were running out of nautical cliche’s after using up Davy Jones, mermaids and Blackbeard.***
  • Unless William Turner decided to stop ferrying dead people to the underworld, there is no reason why he would turn all barnacle-y, or act pretty much exactly like Bill Turner did in P2 and P3.
  • Speaking of the Turners, why doesn’t William take steps to free himself if there might be a way to be with Elizabeth? Why isn’t Elizabeth helping Henry to free him?
  • Also, Henry Turner? When the child of William Turner and Elizabeth makes an appearance in the easter egg at the end of At World’s End, he is listed in the credits as Young Will Turner (it’s on imdb, I checked.) His name should be Will Turner Jr.
  • Assuming Jack was 20 when he made his deal with Davy Jones (at 20, William Kidd was one of the youngest ever captains), he would be 33 at the start of Dead Man’s Chest and, adding the 18  or so years between that movie and DMTNT, he can be no younger than 51, more realistically late 50s or early 60s. Yet he still looks like a forty-something with access to make-up, modern health-care, and hair dye.
  • As a logical extension to the above, how in the blue blazes is Barbosa still even alive!? If we assume Barbosa is in his 50s when we first see him, in DMTNT he’s pushing 70, in a time period when people even in low-risk lifestyles lived to 45ish. (Pirates had an average career-length of five years.) And he has little or no gray hair either.
  • At the time of the flashback scene, what will later be called the Black Pearl is still known as the Wicked Wench, as per the name painted on the stern. Jack renamed the ship shortly after being branded a pirate and making his deal with Davy Jones. Therefore, there is no reason for the pirate-slaying Captain Salazar to be going after the Wicked Wench because Jack shouldn’t be a pirate or part of a pirate crew at this point.


Now, having unburdened myself of my outrage, I wash my hands of this weirdness.



*Don’t ever write a feminist essay on your favorite Hollywood movie. Now I can never unrealize that Jack Sparrow treats women like dirt and is mean to animals. However, I have also come to realize that like most Hollywood movies, pirate movies in particular are about saying “for the next two-and-a-half hours, I don’t give a crap.”

**Although the stories Elizabeth mentions in Curse of the Black Pearl suggest that he can be, unless we interpret these as well as the sort of “trick shots” we see in the movies.

***Although this I could have forgiven if the movie had been as good as the previous ones. That being said, I don’t see why the writers didn’t try inventing something original like the first movie did.

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