Thursday, July 20, 2006

taking your chances with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

I saw POTC:DMC on Monday - by myself since The Wife hasn't seen the first movie and therefore has no interest in the second film of a planned trilogy. Although the film has received mixed reviews and some found the plot to be "incoherent," I thought it was a good piece of entertainment and the plot was plainly visible. I found the most interesting character to be not Captain Jack Sparrow this time around (although he certainly was the star of the film, and the most intriguing character of POTC:COBP) but Davey Jones, an amazingly developed CGI character voiced by the excellent British actor Bill Nighy.

There are conflicting stories about whether Davey Jones is the devil himself or merely a sailor. He is mostly known for his locker, which lies at the bottom of the ocean. In the Disney movie, Davey (pictured here) is not the devil himself but a cross between a man and an octopus. He does have mastery over the sea, however, and captains the Flying Dutchman. He offers dying sailors the chance to delay their judgment day by serving him for 100 years.

I did not see the broadcast on July 14, but I read a transcript of Bill O'Reilly's interview with Marc Newman about the film. Marc Newman is president of, "a company dedicated to providing pastors and lay leaders with the tools necessary to use movies as a way of reaching out to others with the Gospel of Christ." In the interview, Dr. Newman discusses spirituality in the movie. The full transcript is here.

Mr. Newman correctly perceives one of the main thematic elements of the film to be the wagering of souls to delay judgment day. However, Mr. Newman makes some statments that are worthy of further discussion, so we shall take a look at this.

O'REILLY: All right. So I get it. None of the pirates wants to die because they think they're all going to hell so they're trying to delay the grim reaper. But there isn't any reference outright to Christianity, is there?

NEWMAN: Well, there's a wonderful scene very early in the film where a couple of the pirates are rowing in a boat. They've just escaped from jail. And they used to be these immortal ghosts from the first film, but they have been humanized, as a result of getting their treasure back and having their blood sacrificed, which happens in the first movie. And so the guy is looking at a Bible. Now, he's reading it upside down because he's illiterate. But the guy asks him, he says, "You know, we're not immortal anymore, so now we have to take care of our immortal souls."

O'REILLY: Now do you feel that this was purposely put in this movie? Or is it just, you know, somebody in the screenplay going, "How do I fill this screen?"

NEWMAN: You know, Bill, there's no way to really know, but one thing that I do know is that art has a tendency to transcend the intentions of its makers. And so I think that these stories are the kind of stories that resonate with people. You've seen a million movies where people get shot or cut or stabbed and it doesn't have nearly the resonance as it does when you look at bunch of people who are trembling over the idea of whether or not they're going to their soul.

O'REILLY: Is it their soul or their life? Because nobody wants to die.

NEWMAN: Oh, no, it's their soul. Because there's a great scene early in the film, when Davy Jones is looking at a man. And he's giving them all the opportunity to escape meeting their maker by serving 100 years before the mast on his ship. And one of the young men is holding a rosary in his hand with a cross clearly identified and he looks at him, and he makes the offer. And the guys says, "No, I'd rather take my chances". In other words, in the afterlife he feels secure. So of course, they cut his throat and throw him overboard. But the fact of the matter is, like many Christian martyrs in the past, would rather die than serve on a hellish ship.
I should speak first of the scene of Pintel and Ragetti discussing how they are no longer immortal due to the curse, and Ragetti believes that reading the Bible holds the key to caring for his soul. Think of it: a character in a movie is looking in the Bible for answers as to how to care for his soul. Have you ever seen a movie, that is not overtly Christian, in which something like this takes place? I can not think of one, so if you know of one, please inform me.

The scene with Davey Jones occurs after his ship has battled with a pirate ship, and of course the pirate ship has lost. Davey has offered the survivors (who are all dying) the chance to prolong their life and put off judgment day by serving him for 100 years. One man decided he will "take [his] chances" and die rather than serve Davey.

Inexplicably, Mr. Newman has labeled this man - this pirate - as a person with sense of security. I don't know about you, but it seems to me that a man who says he will take his chances doesn't sound very secure. To take a chance is to take a risk or to gamble. To equate this with security is nonsense. If a man is secure in his beliefs, this means that he knows or believes them to be true - he would not consider his belief as "taking a chance."

Let us consider 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (ESV), which gives a plain understanding of the Gospel:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
Isn't this fascinating? This passage claims that Jesus Christ died for our sins, so we can be certain that when we face God on our own personal judgment day, we don't have to say something to Him like, "But, but.... I was a good person! I gave to the Katrina victims, I didn't steal pens from work, and I never cheated on my spouse." We don't have to "take our chances." We can be secure in the knowledge that Christ died for our sins, and so God will accept us as His own because of what Christ has done.


  1. Fascinating stuff .. I never would have thought about Pirates 2 from that angle, but it kind of does make sense

  2. I thought it was kind of awkward (for lack of better terms) for them to even mention the Bible in a movie of this caliber, especially with all the controversy in this country about religion. They knew many would be watching the movie, since the first one was so successful, and yet they still put that scene in. Makes me wonder.....