Many years ago, I was up for the gig writing the movie adaptation of Scott Westerfeld’s wonderful sci-fi (then) trilogy Uglies, Pretties and Specials. I liked the books a lot and the idea, I thought, was a real fire-cracker: a dystopian future, a sci-fi trilogy, with a female protagonist, where each movie in the trilogy would examine the same society from a different point of view. It had never been done before and it was a huge opportunity. The producer who brought me the books was a respected big-budget sci-fi producer, and the project was set up at a genuine big-deal studio. All I needed to do was get a firm handle on how to tell the story and there was no way the project could not move forward.
Congratulations to the Disney Animation folks on their brand-new hit. It is charming, witty, funny and entertaining.
Noteworthy to me is Ralph’s in-game backstory. It’s not really a spoiler, since it’s not really discussed at length in the movie, but I will hide it under the fold nevertheless for the sake of decency.
Act I of Curse begins with Elizabeth Swann making a kind of a wish, a wish that a handsome pirate might one day come and steal her away. A handsome boy wearing a pirate medallion shows up instead, and she transfers her wish onto him, making him a pirate in her mind, if not in his. Eight years later, a handsome pirate, Jack Sparrow, does indeed blow into town, and indeed makes gestures toward stealing Elizabeth away, but winds up in the pokey instead. A crew of actual pirates finally shows up at the end of the act, and they do in fact proceed to steal Elizabeth away, but now that Elizabeth sees the reality of piracy, the looting and pillaging and killing (this being Disney, no actual rape is shown, these pirates are manifestly chaste), she recoils, and as the act draws to a close partly regrets her wish. Curse, in one aspect, traces Elizabeth’s evolution from oppressed daughter to daring adventurer (before returning her safely to her father’s world). The following two movies draw the character out further, making Elizabeth “her own pirate,” as it were, before she finally outgrows the whole pirate thing and settles down.
Who is the protagonist of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl? Casual viewers would probably say it’s Captain Jack Sparrow, since he’s the most memorable character. Others might say that, since the movie is, in part, a love story, that there are two protagonists, Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner. It could be argued that there are three protagonists, or even four, if you count bad-guy Barbossa.
Myself, I’m going to argue that there is only one, Elizabeth Swann.
Todd Alcott is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles with his wife and his kids and his cats and his dogs and his lizard. He has worked on many feature films and has sometimes been credited for thus. You may have seen one.