I said it before, and I will say it again: “I love movies…unconditionally!” For that reason I am certain that I would never be a good movie critic, because all I do is count the reasons I love a movie and ignore all the faults. That being said, I am a tremendous fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I wouldn’t even say that PotC is a guilty pleasure, because I have no reason to dislike the films. I take them with this grain of salt: they are fun entertainment based on a Disney park ride, and they need not find themselves under the scrutiny of a serious critic’s weighty microscope. I love, I love, I love (Pride and Prejudice quote alert) the characters, the scenery, the story lines, the fight scenes, and THE SCORE of Pirates of the Caribbean! I know things about the films that no one (outside of the production team) should know. For example, In all four movies Captain Jack Sparrow only kills one person, Captain Hector Barbosa, and he even comes back to life. (I bet you didn’t know Hector was his first name.) Even in the third film when he has a chance to stop Davey Jones from killing all the other pirates Captain Jack hesitates, and Will Turner pays the price.
However, I am not here to showcase my intricate knowledge of the lore, but rather to share my dream ending… and it truly was a dream. Chances are that everyone knows and loves Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush’s characters in the franchise, as they are quite magical and memorable. But does anyone know the name Jack Davenport? Well here he is…
Still not sure who you are looking at? Well, I pay close attention to names in movies, and his character’s name “James Norrington” didn’t mean much at first. But as the plot within the Curse of the Black Pearl unraveled before my eyes in a theatre for the first time the name quickly took on a new meaning. I pondered the name over and over, and with each sequel I felt more certain that the story would eventually prove my theory correct.
The overarching theme of PotC is everyone has a dark side, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. Take Captain Jack for example. He is a pirate, a lawbreaker, and a scallywag, but he is a good man. We see the full transition of Will and Elizabeth into pirates while still trying to hold onto the things they believe that make them “good people.”
Then there’s James… good old Commodore James Norrington. He transitions from an upstanding officer in His Majesties Navy into a lowlife, back-stabbing buccaneer willing to join Captain Jack’s crew if only to get revenge. He makes the turn into a pirate for personal gain. All the while, I knew I would be right. Through confirmation after confirmation, I awaited impatiently for the climax. I was certain it was coming, but then I was robbed of my vision. SPOILER ALERT!!!!! James was slain.
So, please allow me to retell his story for you. We will begin in the scene midway through At World’s End, where he is aiding in Elizabeth’s escape from the Flying Dutchman.
Commodore Norrington gives his final farewell to his would-be lover Elizabeth, and she begins climbing the towline to the Black Pearl. He hears a crewmember of the Dutchman approaching and tries to stop him. But it is too late. Bootstrap Bill has already called away that there is a coup in the making. As a last ditch heroic effort to aid in the escape of his love, Norrington raises his sidearm and fires a single shot into the towline severing the bond between the two warships. Bootstrap Bill, sword drawn, delivers a decisive blow to Norrington…
…wait for it…
…and cuts off his firing hand. Wham-O!!!!!
Captain Davey Jones arrives to find the crippled Commodore silhouetted by the escaping Black Pearl. He angrily orders the prisoner to be thrown into the brig.
Below decks a few scenes later we find the good Commodore writhing in agony behind bars, his legs shackled to the deck. The only comfort he can find is that his last act had set free his once beloved. He couldn’t possibly hope for more. Then there is something in the air. Magic has taken hold of the water in the brig. Moisture on the bulkheads and leaked seawater in the bilge collect and create a woman’s figure. It is Calypso in a watery form. She approaches the terrified Commodore. He knows he should flee, but lacks the energy or ability to do so. She assures him that there is no need to fear her, and she offers to mend his wounds and loose his bonds if he would repay her with a single favor. He says name her price. She looks over her shoulder, his eyes follow hers, and they both fix their gaze on an old boat hook hanging on the bulkhead. The scene cuts.
A few scenes later, at the climax, the battle is raging in the maelstrom. On the deck of the Flying Dutchman the newlyweds, William and Elizabeth, are fighting for their lives, and Captain Jack is trying to figure out just how to defeat his foe. They arrive together surrounding Davey Jones. He looks at the two lovers and sees his advantage, but Captain Jack yells his name. Jones turns to see Captain Jack holding his heart with a knife drawn and ready to end his life. Then, ignoring his certain fate, Jones drives his blade at Elizabeth, but before the rusty edge can find it’s mark he is stopped dead. The heart has been pierced, but not by Captain Jack or William Turner. It is Norrington! He now has an aged brass boathook for a hand, and he has slain the man who took it from him with that very hook. Davey Jones falls to the deck and breathes his last. The gunfire ceases, the storm subsides, and the sea growth begins to fall from the hull of the Dutchman and her crew. Norrington pulls his hook hand from the lifeless heart of the deceased Davey Jones and Elizabeth rushes to embrace him.
She grabs Norrington and exclaims, “James, you saved me!”
He hesitates then slowly pushes her away with his good hand. In a dark and unfamiliar voice devoid of his former rank or decorum Norrington replies, “My dear, I’m afraid that was not for you.” There is a pause of silence amongst the motley crew of pirates.
“Calypso.” Says Captain Jack breaking the calm.
Young Turner continues the thought, “What did she promise you, Norrington?”
“Unfortunately,” James returns with what could almost be a smirk, “Norrington is no more.” He looks down at his new hand and thoughtfully continues, “…I am James Hook.”
“Nay,” retorts Captain Jack. He reaches down to retrieve the hat from the lifeless body of Davey Jones. Hans Zimmer’s masterful score begins to build. The barnacles and seaweed now fall away revealing a worn yet elegant black felt hat with gold trim. Captain Jack hands the hat to the former Commodore and says, “You are… Captain James Hook.”
Captain Hook takes the gift and replies, “Aye.” The stoic score climbs higher as he dons the new cover. Then he turns a fierce gaze to the approaching British fleet and ponders aloud, “Now, about this… Trading Company.”
Cut to black.
Cue epic pirate theme.
Bonus: After credits scene. Will and Elizabeth are sharing a warm embrace on an island beach. He says something sappy like, “I will never leave you.”
She replies with something worse like, “I’ll follow you forever.”
Then they kiss. The camera shot is from a great distance and clearly through the lens of a spyglass.
“Was it worth it?” asks Captain Jack.
Captain Hook lowers the spyglass slowly. “As I said; I didn’t do it for her.”
Sparrow approaches. The two are on the deck of the Flying Dutchman. “But you clearly could have waited.” Captain Jack presses further, “Wasn’t there something driving you in that moment?”
Captain Hook raises one eyebrow slightly. “Well, it clearly wasn’t driving you. You just stood there holding the heart. What? Were you just waiting to make your move?”
Captain Jack squints. “It was coming.” He quickly changes the subject, “so it’s escorting souls into the afterlife for you then?”
“No.” Hook responds with reservation. “Calypso no longer trusts any humans with ushering the dead. She intends to see to that herself.”
“What’s left for you then, mate?” Captain Jack inquires.
“I had one other favor I asked of Calypso.” Captain Hook gazes into the horizon. “And I believe she will hold up her end.” He pauses then meets Captain Jack’s gaze. “You are looking for a fountain that gives eternal life, but I am going to a land that grants it. We shall not meet again.”
Captain Jack extends a half empty bottle of rum to Captain Hook and says, “Fair winds, mate.”
Hook takes the offering and replies, “And following seas, captain.”
The music comes in strong and we are on the shore again with the newlyweds. They break from kissing to look out to sea. The Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchmen are parting ways. Then the music hits the climax and suddenly the Dutchmen turns upward. She rises from the ocean on the wings of Calypso and turns into the sunset climbing higher and higher. Captain James Hook is at the helm. He turns one last time to look upon his lost love, then his eyes find their way back to the sunset.
Captain Jack watches the Dutchman float away and speaks softly, “Keep a weather eye on the horizon, mate.”
Ok, I know it's not the whole "crocodile ate my hand" traditional story, but if Christopher Nolan can rewrite Joker's origin story, and the Mandarin can be rewritten entirely, then old Hook can get revamped as well.
I really thought they were going to take this route with that character, so much so that I was just watching the second and third movie waiting for someone to cut his hand off. And when the scene came up where he helped Elizabeth escape I was literally on the edge of my seat thinking, "here it is!" But I was very wrong. Anyway, what do you think?