In our family, Memorial Day weekend is Ship Weekend. We watch tall ship movies. As I recall, one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies probably opened over a Memorial Day weekend and that set the tradition for us.
And here we are with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the first movie in the trilogy, for a trip through the Enneagram. This movie is very satisfying.
Establish the world. Immediately we have tall ships, little Elizabeth and little Will, and the existence of pirates. Also, the stupid “Yo Ho” song is front and center. Planning an entire soundtrack theme around this annoying ditty is a very bold choice, yet one that is fully embraced. This movie exists because of a ride at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim. I admire the filmmakers’ decision to wallow in this fact. Brash works.
We have a quick transition from the little people to their grown-up versions. The social relationship (Will is on a much lower tier than Elizabeth, the governor’s daughter) is succinctly told. All the ducks are in a row.
And the trouble is . . . Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow.
He gets a show-stopping entrance, looking very pirate-y, and then a comic double take when his dinghy is revealed. A new character is introduced and he is sooo interesting.
(In some ways I would say that Johnny Depp himself is the trouble being introduced. He inhabits the character so strongly that he steals scenes and disrupts the plot flow. This kind of trouble, though, makes the movie — and the box office — successful.)
In an interesting twist we also have a secondary, lesser trouble. Norrington proposes to Elizabeth. The Enneagram 1 has clearly let us know that Will and Elizabeth are destined to love each other. A man with the social standing to offer marriage to Elizabeth is a good sub-plot.
The mysterious moment, mirrored in the 6, which sets the plot in motion is very lovely here. Elizabeth faints into the bay and her necklace, Boy Will’s pirate gold piece, floats up from her bodice. When the gold reacts with the water a sonic boom radiates outward through the ocean. We know that some kind of pirate-y magic has been set in motion.
Also, because Elizabeth is drowning, Jack can save her life and become entwined with the plot and characters. The screenwriting effort is so smooth you may miss it.
Everything is established and off we go. This is an incredibly lively script with action scenes piled upon each other. The pirates, called by the gold, capture Elizabeth and attack the town. When she is taken to their ship, the Black Pearl, we meet one of the great characters (and actors) of the series, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). He does a truly beautiful job of explaining the rules of the magic. Aztec curses and zombie pirates who can only be seen when the moon shines on them are a mouthful. A combination of tell and show is well-used to bring every viewer (and Elizabeth) up to speed.
Meanwhile, the Will and Jack partnership is developed. These two are a team throughout the 4. I give Orlando Bloom credit for standing opposite the Johnny Depp Show and not disappearing entirely.
And I give the filmmakers credit for our introduction to the pirate town of Tortuga. How they managed to make the place look exactly like the Disneyland ride and yet keep the scene real is truly amazing. This is fun stuff, especially for anyone who was once a young child who took that ride.
The two plot threads convene at the Isla de Muerta, location of the chest of cursed Aztec gold. I like that the 4 winds down in this location. The 5, as we shall see, does the same.
At the end of this first Isla de Muerta sequence Elizabeth and Will are reunited. By seeking out Elizabeth and rescuing her Will has overcome the social barrier that had made her untouchable to him. Elizabeth, who was always ready to love Will if he would just make a move toward her, is open to a romance. The Switch has our lovebirds forming an acknowledged attachment.
In true 5 fashion, the team of Elizabeth and Will is now working together. Jack is also working as part of their team, although his loyalty never quite seems secure. Ships chase each other, cannons fire, sword fights commence. Frankly, some of this runs together into a blur. Action-packed is a word hardly sufficient to describe this movie.
We get one interlude when Jack and Elizabeth are marooned together on an island. Rescue is at hand but they get a night alone with a cache of rum. This scene is uncomfortable. If Elizabeth loves Will so steadfastly, what is she doing giving Jack the eye? (That dreadlocked hairdo must stink to high heaven even by shipboard standards. I mean, really.) We will see this plot line developed further in the next movie, but I question the screenwriters on this moment. It feels like a cheap ploy rather than a true character arc.
But it ends quickly with a spectacular island-wide smoke signal that leads to their rescue. We are soon back at the Isla de Muerta with one of the great sword fight scenes staged with humans and CGI zombie effects. The visuals are impressive and the plot complexity (Jack becomes a zombie) is engaging. We drive toward the end of the 5.
Where the 3 showed the beginning of the Aztec gold magic the 6 shows the end. Will returns the last piece of gold, smeared in his blood, to the chest and all the magic comes to a halt. In a wonderful piece of storytelling and acting, Barbossa is shot just at this transition from zombie to human. He dies as a beloved villain should, with a touch of irony.
Immediately thereafter Elizabeth and Will share an unspoken decision moment. She will honor her engagement to Norrington, thus separating her from Will.
And Will is now free to follow his own sense of honor. He shows up at Jack’s hanging and rescues him. Will’s bravery, perhaps, leads Elizabeth to ditch her previous commitment to Norrington and join the unlawful pirate life of Will and Jack. Norrington graciously accepts that he doesn’t have her heart. Papa Governor covers his disappointment and wishes them well. Jack’s story, and the trouble he represented, is resolved.
This fight scene may not be as exciting as the zombie fight in the 5, but we’ve had so many at this point that it’s hard to fault one for being less imaginative than another. This Enneagram has been about love, after all, not battle. True love wins the day in the movie’s climax.
The repercussions of the 8 are: the lovebirds kiss while the sun sets. Their life ahead holds promise. And Jack stands at the wheel of the Black Pearl, which was his objective all along.
Everybody’s happy and the movie ends. We have a complete Enneagram. Only after the smashing box office does the notion of a sequel enter into the equation. I will look at the next two movies for an Enneagram that’s not quite so satisfying, even though the sequels are favorites.