Remember that thrill that fluttered up your chest when you made eye contact with your first love? Mine was a sports writer who sat two rows over in journalism class. He was an excellent golfer and reminded me of Bruce Jenner. This guy would occasionally hum "Rainy Days and Mondays" or "What the World Needs Now" and to this day, I think of him every time I hear the Carpenters or catch a whiff of rubber cement.
Hey, does anyone know if there is a connection between rubber cement and migraines?
Anyway, that amazing first love euphoria is the same for me in that moment, that very special film moment, when I get a glorious shot of cinematic adrenaline straight to the heart and realize that I care desperately about a character and what happens to him.
When I was a kid, mine was an easy heart to win. I was in love with Speed Racer. Shallow me. He drove a hot car. I also flirted with Batman's sidekick for awhile. Who didn't? But, hello! Robin didn't drive and let's face it, he wore pantyhose.
But the older I get, the more cautious I am with my cinematic affection. I'm a fan of very few. Yet, I can tell you the exact moment I fell in love with Indiana Jones. (now that I've had days to think about it with a damp rag over my eyes) It was in the first act. And, I know precisely when Egon Spengler won my heart. First act. Michael Dorsey? Sid, the Sloth? Captain Jack Sparrow? All in act one.
That's the way it's supposed to be, right? Don't writers craft characters to reel us into their stories just as soon as possible?
But something odd happened to me with Dead Man's Chest and please keep in mind that I love Dead Man's Chest. The first act came and went and there was no thrilling flutter. Jack Sparrow was hysterically funny to watch and of course, I still loved him in a "leftover from the last film" sort of way, but why didn't he thrill me anymore?
I've had waaaaaay too much time to think about this so feel free to stop reading right now, go get a beer, check the fridge, take a potty break, or just find another blog to read. Also, consider this your obligatory Dead Man's Chest spoiler alert.
Jack Sparrow, in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, took smart action without thinking and had a cocky assurance of his own invincibility despite being a terrible escapist. Jack had a fearlessness about him that stemmed from believing that no matter what, things would ultimately go his way if he could just hang on long enough.
His believing it made us believe it, too.
The Jack Sparrow in Dead Man's Chest is a fraidy cat and never once says, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow" as if uttering his name carried the same weight as that of the king himself. But in this second film, everyone already knows Jack and there are no strangers for him to announce his fame to. Jack's quiet and sneaky self assurance is gone and so is our confidence that if we hook up with him, no matter how weird it gets, ultimately everything will be all right.
But the moment DID come when I fell utterly and totally in love with Captain Jack Sparrow all over again. It wasn't in the first act or even the second, but at the end of the film! What is up with that?
Elizabeth has been dragged across the deck by a giant tentacle, lost her firearm, and is desperately trying to retrieve it so she can shoot the barrels of gunpowder and rum that Will is about to release from a net.
Will dangling. Net breaking. Squid attacking. Elizabeth failing. And suddenly, he appears --
There he is, Captain Jack Sparrow, shining like Apollo with the sun on his shoulder as if the heavens themselves opened up and placed him on the deck.
There his is, taking the same smart, quick action that made me love him in the first film when he dove from the Interceptor to save Elizabeth from drowning.
There he is, saying nothing but announcing by his very presence, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow" and assuring us that if we hook up with him (or cling to his leg as Elizabeth does) that no matter how weird it gets, ultimately everything will be all right.
Flutter. Flutter. Flutter.
But why didn't he flutter me in the first act? Or, did he?
Pirates of the Caribbean is a trilogy. The first act is Curse of the Black Pearl. The second act is Dead Man's Chest which sets up the impossible situation that Jack cannot be extricated from. At World's End will be the resolution.
The more about screenwriting I learn and the more films I study (or evaluate in my imagination while heavily medicated), the more I know how very little I really understand about this craft.
Hey, did anyone else feel strangely empowered by the giant squid that looked like an enormous vagina with teeth?
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