The Problem With Captain Jack Sparrow
Who's saying what
I recently rewatched the Pirates of the Caribbean films. I can't recall the impetus. Perhaps I just needed a lungful of some sweet, fragrant Orlando Bloom. Maybe I wanted to think about scurvy, and couldn't do so without significant visual stimulation. But if I'm honest, the real reason is this guy. This guy right here.
Thanks, Starspage.com! Anyway, I know the trilogy (and fourth film which was awful so I shan't acknowlegde it from this point on) has long since sailed over the edge of the world, but... imagine you run a restaurant. Some regular customer, a real charmer, says they're leaving to go overseas. You throw them a big party, give speeches and generally make a great night out of it, then the next day, you come in to work to find that all the food in your storeroom has been replaced with poo. Huge jars of the stuff. That is how I feel about Jack Sparrow, sometime captain of the Black Pearl. He crapped in my jars.
Allow me to clarify.
5. He ran away.
Jack began his adventures by running towards danger. Like an absolute deranged tit. In fact, in Curse of the Black Pearl, he and Senor Bloomingdales ran towards the bad guys underwater, using a upside down canoe as a sort of diving helmet. Sure, he was running in a sneaky, underhanded way, but behind the sneaking was a genuinely charming modicum of bravery. Actual, palpable bravery. As the films went on, he began running away, in more ways than one.
4. He got stupider.
As he go more cowardly, Captain Jack got stupider. You see, he was initially written as a kind of drunken master; his swaying and vacillating bung-eye and the ever-present cloying stink of rum, as commented on continuously by all and sundry, was an act. A ruse. Sure, he was drunk, but his entire personality was a gorgeous, honeyed pitcher-plant, designed to lull people in, then use them. His machinations were undulating and adaptable, and they ensured that not only he, but also his friends would live to fight another day. The second film, however, began sloughing off this glorious shell, leavig behind a dumb guy in a silly hat.
3. He became a jerk.
So we've established that after the first film, Jack got stupider. He also, tragically, got meaner. The reason Jack was such an appealing character was that between cocky, brash displays of bravado, he'd let people see that he genuinely cared. He'd give Will Turner actual, sincere, fatherly advice. He'd go back for his crew. He did such a good job of being genuinely caring, albeit beneath a crusty exterior, that Turner risked his life to rescue Jack from the gallows. And yet somehow, by the second film, he's jettisoned any compassion and taken to abandoning his friends, screwing over his crew and cheating on Will with Kiera Knightley of all people. KIERA KNIGHTLEY. *shudder*
2. He stopped caring, but people cared about him more and more.
This ties in with point three, but stings more: the second film sees Jack doing a 180 degree swing from loveable Han Solo style rogue/mentor to tactless womanising bastard. And yet somehow, when he gets eaten at the conclusion of the interminable part two in the series, his friends - the same friends he's been screwing over the whole movie - tearfully dedicate themselves to bringing him back from the dead. Which is the kind of jarring, idiotic narrative dissonance that makes this series about as consistent as the Matrix trilogy.
1. He got Braffed.
This is the worst crime of all: near the tail end of season three of scrubs, Zach Braff and co. turned J.D. from a thoughtful, sometimes goofy but incredibly competent young doctor into... this guy.
Granted, there's some of The Todd in there, but still. When something gets 'Braffed', it goes from great to annoying really fast. Take, for example, every track off the Garden State soundtrack. They all got Braffed. And captain Jack Sparrow got Braffed harder than a Braff could Braff. How? By sacraficing everything that made him great - heroism, charm, mentoring, bravery, loyalty, with just a splash of idiocy - and replaced it instead with big, dumb, marketable and iconic pratfalls and setpieces, combined with acts of downright cruelty towards characters he previously went out of his way to help.
Which, ironically, not even JD would do. Especially not to his chocolate bear.
(Lead image via FDC)