Ah, Treasure Planet. The underrated Disney film from 2002 based off of the adventure novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Let's take a look at the opening of the movie. Because all it takes is those first few minutes to get you hooked for you to know this is one great movie.
As a brief explanation of the plot, Jim Hawkins is a youthful young man who finds himself constantly in trouble after his father abandoned him and his mother, Sarah, years ago. One day, a spaceship crashes at the inn he and his mother run. The pilot of the ship, Billy Bones, gives Jim a mysterious sphere that brings the unwanted attention of pirates who then burn down the inn. Jim, Sarah, and their friend Dr. Delbert Doppler flee. They figure out the sphere is a map to the famed Treasure Planet and set off on a perilous journey aided by Captain Amelia, First Mate Mr. Arrow, the questionable cook John Silver, a strange creature called Morph, and a mentally unstable robot named B.E.N.
The general consensus is that John Silver is our villain
But, I've never seen him as a villain. In any adaptation of the Treasure Island story, actually. Treasure Planet was my first exposure to the story of Treasure Island and my perceptions of John Silver have always stuck. Even though I know he's supposed to be the villain, in my mind he isn't.
But I can see why he is. He leads the mutiny against Captain Amelia. Billy Bones warns Jim to be careful of the cyborg. He's a pirate. And he's gotta be evil if he's able to tell Scroop what to do.
But then again, he can't bring himself to kill Jim. He picks Jim over literally a boatload of treasure. He has Jim take care of Morph when he runs off because he knows a pirate's life is not for Morph. He even gives Jim the only bit of treasure he managed to take from Treasure Planet so that they can rebuild the inn that he and his band of pirates destroyed.
If you ask me, that's not very villainous. It's pretty darn heroic, actually. Now, considering the circumstances of him being a villain trying to obtain the treasure from Treasure Planet and as how he destroyed the Bendow Inn, he should be considered an anti-hero. But I have another theory (shocker, right?).
Silver is the hero Jim deserves, but not the one he needs right now
There's a lot we don't know about John Silver. Like how he lost his arm and his leg. Who he was before being a pirate. Why he became a pirate, if not entirely for money. Or why he decides to stand in as the most fatherly figure Jim ever had in his life since his dad abandoned him and his mom.
As I was researching a little about the novel and the movie itself, I decided to re-watch the movie to hopefully get a little more information on John Silver. And I didn't really get anything out of it. At first...
There was this one scene where Jim gets into a fight with Scroop. Silver steps in and stops the fight. He later asks Jim, "Didn't your pop ever teach you to pick your fights a bit more carefully?" Jim doesn't answer at first. So Silver says, "Your father not the teaching sort?" And Jim responds with, "No, he was more of the taking off and never coming back sort."
And that's where their mock father-son relationship began. And after Jim told Silver this, you can see some recollection of something in Silver's face. Like the knowledge that Jim didn't have a father around as he grew up struck a nerve with him. At first I thought maybe he didn't really know his father growing up either. And, as I mentioned before, an idea struck.
Silver knows Jim's dad
Jim's dad is another character we know nothing about. Except that he isn't around often. In the opening scene, his dad isn't there at all. There's no mention of him and he doesn't join them as they watch the book tell them the story of Captain Flint. Whenever he comes home from trips, Jim is excited to see him, however he doesn't make the attempt to bond with his son.
Jim's love for adventure and ships may stem from his father. His dad leaves on a ship, possibly not for the first time ever, when he leaves his family forever. What I'm gathering is that his dad has been going on these trips on these ships several times and that's how Jim and Sarah received a lot of their income. When he leaves for good, he tells Sarah, possibly during an argument. He doesn't say a word to Jim, though.
It isn't hard to figure that much out. Watch the video and see for yourself:
What's interesting is that the video shows the flashbacks of Jim's dad as well as how John Silver interacts with him and their bonding. John Silver steps up where Jim's dad stepped down.
Some people might make the claim that Silver is Jim's dad, however that doesn't seem very concrete. His dad appears very much human in the video. He doesn't have any cybernetics, though that doesn't mean he doesn't acquire them later on. But if you look at his hands, he is very human and doesn't have the same hands as Silver.
So, now I bet you're wondering why I think Jim's dad knows Silver
To be perfectly honest with you, I have very little evidence of this. This is entirely based on an assumption (I know what they say about assuming). But it has the possibility of being true.
But if it is true, it shows that Silver is the hero (yes, I'm finally getting to the point of this article).
Because Silver knows who Jim's dad is, Silver wants to help Jim. And he wants to help Jim from long before the movie even starts. Jim's dad might have asked Silver this as his dying wish. To help him and Sarah get back on their feet. And Jim's dad probably did die because, in the novel, Jim's dad died a few days before Billy Bones arrived. His death could've been the catalyst that sent Silver and his band of pirates after Bones in the first place - landing them at Montressor.
He puts the pieces together after Jim questions him about ever visiting Montressor, his home planet. Silver knows he's been there and he knows that Jim is on to him. So, at first, he's willing to harm him. And then he learns that Jim's dad abandoned him. Putting the pieces together in his mind and knowing that Jimbo's dad is from Montressor as well, he figures it out.
So he decides he'll help Jim from there on out. As the movie goes on and it's revealed that Silver can't kill Jim, there are two reasons for that: first, he's grown fond of Jim. Second, he made a promise to Jim's father to help Jim back on his feet.
When they find the treasure of Treasure Planet and Silver was going to leave Jim to his fate to save the boatload of treasure, he wasn't weighing the treasure against Jim's life. He believed that Jim might be able to save himself, and with that option Silver could save the boat to help resurrect the Bendow Inn. However it doesn't work out that way.
When they leave Treasure Planet and head back to the Montressor Spaceport, Silver leaves the ship to go into hiding. Before he does that, he gives Jim the only treasure anyone managed to save from the exploding planet to rebuild the Bendow Inn, thereby fulfilling Jim's father's dying wish.
John Silver is definitely not the villain of this film. Hero might be a bit of a stretch, though it's definitely feasible. If I am going to pick, though, I'm gonna say he's an anti-hero. He's got a dark past behind him and doesn't always make the best choices, but he is still a good guy underneath it all.
Fun fact: Jim's middle name is Pleiades, named after an open star cluster in the constellation Taurus. It is comprised of middle-aged hot B-type stars and is the nearest star cluster to Earth and most obviously seen by the naked eye.