One of the greatest, most dynamic sword fights in cinematic history, Dead Man's Chest (2006)TWITTER/STREEEEEP

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN SPOILERS

Faced with the uncertainty of when we’re heading home, what form the Christmas holidays are exactly going to take in this time of a pandemic, and a bleak possibility of a third lockdown when we return, I was in need of some comfort. I was trying to think about what I could look forward to about going home, besides seeing my dogs, when my prospects of staying sane seem better here. I thought of what films I could watch to get me through, and I immediately thought of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy – then, in order to procrastinate some more, I began to unpick exactly what it was that draws me time and again back to these films.

“Everyone has nostalgic films that mean something to them; for me, this trilogy seems to define an overwhelmingly large part of my childhood.”

It used to be a tradition in our house that my mum would often go and visit my grandma on a Friday and stay the night, leaving my dad to look after me, my younger brother, and sister. This meant only one thing: a film, watched late into the night (realistically about 9pm), and a trip to Blockbuster.

I should elaborate, perhaps for the benefit of those who might not have had the joy of experiencing Blockbuster on a Friday night (the fact that I have just turned 21, and that I remember Avatar being available to rent for the first time, has not escaped me). It would involve me and my younger brother racing through the stacks trying to find a film that both we and my dad would enjoy. It was a tricky task.

We would often return home without a film, to be faced with a more feasible decision; which of our oft-watched family classics would we return to? It often came down to either the Pirates of the Caribbean, or a Lord of the Rings – the latter being just as excellent, but a bigger investment of time. There was something about a trilogy of films, and these ones in particular, that just worked. It seems that it’s still working for me, over a decade later.

The fight for the key to the chest that contains Davy Jones' heart, Dead Man's Chest (2006)TWITTER/SLEEPYHOLL0W

The Pirates of the Caribbean (my undeniable favourite) repays close attention. The development of the characters over the three films is miraculous; a long series of multiple episodes will, most of the time, pay you back for your investment of time and attention, but it’s often a lot of material to get through. I wholeheartedly believe that a good series of films will do the same thing, but with much less angst involved. Iconic scenes, stunning cinematography, and an immense soundtrack, paired with some amazing characters – ignoring on occasion Keira Knightley’s jutting chin – make this initial trilogy epic. (I’m entirely disregarding any subsequent film from this nostalgia trip; although the mermaids of Stranger Tides were captivating, the overall plot was lacking, and Geoffrey Rush dressed as a privateer was disturbing in the extreme).

Geoffrey Rush dressed, not as a pirate, but as a privateer (disturbing in the extreme)TWITTER/CINEPORHORA

What isn’t there to love about a film that keeps on giving? Dead Man’s Chest (2006; the second of the three, for the uninitiated) does just that. From our introduction to the Flying Dutchman and the terrifying Kraken that lurks in the depths, to the hunt for the grisly heart of its master, this film is as hilarious as it is clever. I’ll admit, when I was younger, I was less interested in the Elizabeth Swann–Will Turner–James Norrington love triangle than I was in the prospect of that particular swordfight that takes place in and around a moving water-wheel. The character development is impeccable, leading you to develop a genuine affection for and interest in them as people (to say nothing of the costumes, acting, locations, and the artistry of certain shots). As a case in point, see Captain Barbossa. We met him in the first film, when we mostly felt sorry for him only at the end, when he was shot just before escaping from the curse of immortality that plagued him and his crew. Absent from most of the second film, by nature of being dead, he returns nonetheless at the end – a swelling of music and a masterful camera pan sees him coming down the stairs, apple in hand, a monkey on his shoulder, apparently raised from the dead and ready to set sail to rescue Jack and the Black Pearl (currently trapped in Davy Jones’ locker).


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If that’s not enough, see perhaps Jack's iconic entrance to the entire franchise, stepping onto the pier from a flooded boat, or the countless moments when he swings from ship to ship amidst a cannon fight (if memory serves me correctly, it inexplicably happens more than once). That, or his infamous escape from the Pelegostos tribe. Or perhaps the bittersweet moment when Cutler Beckett is finally lost for words, descending to the main deck of his ship, which is currently sandwiched between the Dutchman and the Pearl and being blown to pieces.

Poetic cinema.

Poetic cinemaTWITTER/EPILOGUERS

It’s moments like these that I can picture in detail whenever I listen to the soundtrack (more often than I care to admit), and make me genuinely excited about watching it again soon. Everyone has nostalgic films that mean something to them; for me, this trilogy seems to define an overwhelmingly large part of my childhood. I know for a fact that my mum didn’t visit my grandma all that often, as it was a special treat when we got to watch a film late into the night; equally, my sister is just as invested in these films, despite being five years younger than me, and having much dimmer memories of Blockbuster (I’ll let it go eventually, I swear). It’s as Jack Sparrow says, in a more poignant moment of the film, “Not all treasure’s silver and gold, mate”. Some things are just that important that you remember them for a long time, however old you get.