The Homesick Pirate
By Joshua Seigal
There was a homesick pirate,
His name was Danny Dunn,
Last night in bed he made a wish –
He thought it would be fun
To hop aboard a pirate ship
Instead of going to school.
I don’t know why, I guess he thought
It would be kind of cool.
But now he’s going to and fro
Across the Irish Sea
When all he wants is to go home
And settle down to tea.
They hoist the Jolly Roger
And they drink their jugs of rum,
But it isn’t quite as Danny thought:
He’s crying for his mum.
He didn’t know they’re dirty
And he didn’t know they stank
And the pirates keep on threatening
To make him walk the plank.
There’s droppings in the porridge
And no mattress on the bunks;
There’s lice in Blackbeard’s beard
And there’s sand in Danny’s trunks.
Everyone has scurvy
And they scowl with snaggled teeth;
There’s beetles on the top deck
And the rats live underneath.
So next time that you make a wish
Heed what I say, it’s true:
Young Danny hates the pirate life
And so, I think, will you.
On Tuesday morning, we dropped Daniel off at Dulles, then dropped Adam off at work at NIH, and the rest of the day was spent catching up on maybe 1/3 of the things we postponed while we had both sons here. Since my day was not exciting enough to report on anything besides the fact that Adam has now ordered both a new laptop and tickets to Greece for the academic conference he will attend in June, here is the longer commentary I promised about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
The big complaint I saw from critics about the film was that it was completely derivative of the first POTC film -- a mediocre soft reboot -- which was precisely what I enjoyed about it. Yes, Johnny Depp's schtick is wearing very thin, but I'm in a minority in that Jack was never one of my two favorite characters in the original trilogy; the second film's my least favorite of those, even though it's better directed than the third, because Barbossa isn't around and Elizabeth isn't a pirate king. So I appreciate that a lot of Jack's role in DMTNT involves the guillotine equivalent of the Hamster Wheel of Doom and treating Bootstrap Bill's grandson the way he treated Bootstrap Bill's son, while the dramatic storyline belongs to Barbossa and Carina (who isn't Elizabeth Swann, which is my single biggest complaint about the film -- that they insisted on replacing a not-even-middle-aged woman with a much younger one, but more on that later).
I feel like half the reviewers were looking for reasons to knock Depp and his schtick, to bring up his marriage and the arrest for sneaking dogs into the country and the abuse allegations and the expensive divorce, but since I was never such a big fan of Depp in the first place, I just kind of rolled my eyes at Jack the way I always have and waited for them to get back to the more interesting storylines, because Jack has always been more enjoyable playing in counterpoint to everyone else -- Elizabeth, Will, Norrington, Barbossa, Tia Dalma, Bootstrap Bill, Davy Jones, Beckett, Teague -- than at the center of the story. If the POTC franchise is all about Jack for you, then this isn't one of its better installments, but if, like me, it was always about Elizabeth and the world she inhabited, this isn't a terrible direction to take it in.
Of course, the writers didn't intend to have Elizabeth in the movie at all -- I thought it was broadly hinted that her death was the reason Will was overtaken by the Dutchman's curse, since I assumed that while she protected his heart, he'd be safe from Davy Jones' curse, and only death would have made her betray Will in such a manner. I'm torn between being grateful that we get to see her at all and irate that they didn't understand from the beginning that she is THE crucial character, the one who binds everyone else together, who gives us some investment in the Royal Navy and the merchants and the various pirate factions. I don't believe for one second that, having been a Pirate King, she retired to the land forever while raising a son who snuck off to the sea. So as glad as I am that she and Will get their happy ending, her lack of agency is MY major gripe with the film.
That said, I really do like Carina, who initially suggests that her father taught her to be a scientist, but we later learn that she taught herself based on a misunderstanding of the significance of the book he left her. Unlike Elizabeth, she isn't looking for love -- it finds her quite by accident -- though like Elizabeth she's naturally more drawn to rebels than the officers and officials who presume that any woman capable of her level of scientific reasoning must be a witch, even though she's the biggest skeptic in the franchise. I liked her already before realizing that she wasn't going to turn out to be Norrington's or Beckett's love child but Barbossa's. My second least favorite thing about the film, of course, was his presumed demise, but I've mourned Barbossa before, and I'm assuming that money and scriptwriting will determine whether he returns, not Carina's scientific definition of death. If Geoffrey Rush doesn't return to the franchise for some reason and there's another film, I'm really glad it's Barbossa's daughter.
If I have a redundancy complaint, it's about Will's son following Will's own arc in pursuit of a cursed pirate father. Henry is cute enough but there's absolutely nothing clever or original about his character. I know a lot of people were excited about the specter of Davy Jones in the stinger after the credits -- yet more evidence that no one needs to stay dead in this franchise -- but if he comes back, I don't see how we avoid a retread of the whole revenge storyline. Why else would he show up then disappear in Will and Elizabeth's bedroom? It sure didn't look like it was to bless their union now that he finally has true love. I'm delighted with the stinger otherwise because it suggests that if there is another film, Will and Elizabeth will both be bigger players, but again, why is it Will and NOT Elizabeth having the visions of Davy Jones?
I reiterate: she was a pirate king! I know that title only matters while the Brethren Court is meeting, and that's so far from DMTNT that Keith Richards doesn't even put in an appearance (though I greatly enjoyed Paul McCartney's cameo, he should have been Uncle Albert, not Uncle Jack). It's very typical of Hollywood to assume that a boy is more affected by an absent father than a present mother, but in this case it's a snub to the entire original trilogy not to have Elizabeth more involved in Henry's storyline even if she's not in the movie and it's entirely him reflecting on the stories his mother told him, both about growing up as the governor's daughter in Port Royal and about sailing the high seas on the Empress. I'm going to assume that Henry is attracted to a woman like Carina because Elizabeth DID raise him to appreciate strong, smart, ambitious women. That's what any future sequel needs, not some big dramatic Jack Sparrow storyline.
We picked up Adam and had spaghetti and veggie meatballs with him, then started watching the atrocious Orioles-Yankees game which thankfully we got to turn off in favor of Genius, though it was a very unhappy episode. Then we put on the beginning of the Nationals game, though now we're watching The Daily Show for our dose of sanity-saving Trump-mocking before bed. In honor of the Black Pearl, here are photos of the Gunboat Philadelphia, the Revolutionary War ship on display in the Smithsonian along with the shot that sunk it in Lake Champlain: