When Kimmy and I were in Hawaii, we jumped into a swimming hole where a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides was filmed. We also took two boat trips around the coast and saw several beaches that were featured in the movie. After a while we finally said, “33% on Rotten Tomatoes be damned! Let’s just Netflix it.”
We watched it last night and while it was fun to see Johnny Depp prance around in places we had actually been, what I really got out of the film was that I finally realized why the Pirates movies never really worked for me. More importantly I realized what makes other popular stories work so well.
Okay, there are a lot of reason why Pirates isn’t the best franchise. The characters tend to act without motivation. The scripts appear to have been written over a weekend. The laws of physics are more realistic in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
But that can be said about any Hollywood blockbuster.
No, I think what has always rubbed me the wrong way about Pirates is that none of the characters like each other. Just about every other franchise has a cast of characters who have each other’s backs.
(Seriously, half the people who wish they had gone to Hogwarts don't care about learning magic. They just wish they had friends as loyal as Ron and Hermione in Middle School.)
(Even piece of crap franchises have a cast of heroes who like each other)
Most of the characters in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are all too eager to switch sides and stab each other in the back. With the exception of Kiera Knightly and Orlando Bloom, none of the characters have any loyalties to each other. Jack sparrow is captured by one side and goes along with them. He breaks free and gets captured by another side. Then he gets captured by the first side and then a third side. Each time he follows along with the group, seems to kind of be interested in what they are doing and then wonders off somewhere else. All he does is react, he has no clear goal or motivation.
Now, I acknowledge that one argument might be that this movies is about pirates. Stabbing each other in the back went with the territory. Maybe the movie makers were just trying to be realistic. I can pretty much assure you though that realism was NOT something anyone involved in the production was interested in.
Okay, so granted, rebellious, complex characters are fantastic.
So what did I take away from the fourth Pirates? Basically, give your heroes at least a couple characters they can rely on (for example, the buddy or mentor archetypes). At least give them something they will eventually stand for. Rebellious characters are more interesting than lame goody goodies but they become even more complex when they join the other rebels. That's why Han Solo will always be cooler than Jack Sparrow.