DEAD MAN’S CHEST: Death and Compassion | FCC 146

In PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST, Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) tries to cheat Death himself in the form of Davy Jones (played by Bill Nighy), and Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom) meets his long-suffering and compassionate father Bootstraps Bill (played by Stellan Skarsgard). Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more in this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap 
  • 00:03:58 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:27:57 – Listener Feedback
  • 00:34:10 – Christian Themes in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST

Key Texts for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Let these passages be your guide as you watch Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest with fellow scallawags and beloved rapscallions.

James 2:8 NET

But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

James 2:8 YLT

If, indeed, royal law ye complete, according to the Writing, `Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’–ye do well.

Davy Jones as Death Himself

In theatre, there’s a technical term called the “world of the play.” When using this term, we refer to the rules to which our story and all it encompasses adhere – the rules that are at play that go without being said. In the POTC world, for example, lying and scheming and wheeling and dealing to save one’s own or someone’s life all seem to be quite normative.

Jack Sparrow is one of those wheelers-and-dealers, and he has convinced Will Turner to take his place on the Flying Dutchman and in the servitude to Davy Jones. Jack owes a debt to Davy – his life – that he refuses to give up easily. He talks Will into taking his place, but Davy Jones isn’t so agreeable.

This image from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN DEAD MANS CHEST shows Bill Nighy as Davy Jones.

The character of Davy Jones is a mystery, to be sure. In our (the audience’s) world, we know that “Davy Jones’s locker” is a seaman’s colloquialism for “death.” As we watch Dead Man’s Chest, then, we can view the physical presence of Davy Jones as an allegory for Death.

In the world of Dead Man’s Chest, everyone is trying to escape Death – literally. In Curse of the Black Pearlfor example, Captain Barbosa and his crew have their eternal life (albeit a half life…a cursed life) via the Aztec gold. Even Jack Sparrow himself explicitly states that he wants to be free, and in both films – even much more so in Dead Man’s Chest – we see Jack connive his way to being free from Death.

Of course, he is not successful in his quest because he is eaten by the Kraken. Davy Jones, or Death, walks away a happy man…or squid-man…thingy. Something to note, though, is that death isn’t the final destination in the POTC world.

Bootstraps Bill and Compassion

Another perspective on Death can be gleaned from the character of Bootstraps Bill, Will Turner’s father. Bootstraps has been condemned to serve on the Flying Dutchman, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be relieved anytime soon. And his servitude is a harsh one, as we see in the film.

Once Will lands on the deck of the Dutchman, however, Bootstraps is all at once overwhelmed by compassion for his son. When Will accidentally drops a cannon through the top deck, Bootstraps steps in and offers to take the punishment. Of course, Davy won’t let that happen, so Bootstraps does, in his mind, the next best thing: punish Will himself. That way, he can at least guarantee Will’s safety through the lashings.

This image from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN DEAD MANS CHEST shows Jack Davenport, Johnny Depp, and Orlando Bloom as Norrington, Jack Sparrow, and Will Turner.

As the film goes on, though, we see more and more of Bootstraps’s compassion toward Will, and it echoes the kind of compassion that Christians are supposed to espouse. When Will casts lots against Davy Jones with an eternity of service aboard the Dutchman at stake, Bootstraps throws his die as well so that he can give his son one more chance of a free life. It’s a model we would all do well to follow.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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