Pirates of the Caribbean 4: The Pursuit of Eternal Life

Posted: May 29, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama
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I know, I know–they should have probably stopped with just a trilogy.  Or maybe even with just one.  I certainly did miss Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann–not to mention the pirate with the wooden eyeball and his sidekick.  And yes, we’re all agreed that Penelope Cruz was an utter disappointment as a replacement heroine.  But, I would argue that Johnny Depp easily makes up for those weaknesses in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, as he has really carried all four of these swashbuckling adventure films.

And now for the boldest assertion of this entire post: This fourth installment is the best of the series!  Before you stop reading because you are laughing so hard, let me clarify a bit.  Pirates 4 is the best because it will give your family the most to talk about from a Christian worldview perspective.  The three other films are pretty much mindless, sword-fighting fun.  But for some reason, the writers of this installment took it to another level.  They decided to make some fascinating statements about eternal life.  Other than the joy of watching the antics of Captain Jack Sparrow, what more could we ask for!

Pirates 4 centers on the search for the fountain of youth.  The Spanish are pursuing it.  The English are pursuing it.  Blackbeard and his daughter are pursuing it.  Captain Jack Sparrow, of course, is right in the middle of it all.  From the very beginning, this is more than just a search for a mythical place.  As Jack’s dad tells him: “The fountain will test you.”  That truth frames the rest of the movie.

So let’s try to piece together the eternal life/salvation threads (you can enjoy the fun fight scenes in-between).  Spoiler Alert! A missionary is brought along on Blackbeard’s ship in hopes of saving the evil pirate’s soul.  Blackbeard’s daughter is putting her faith instead in the fountain of life to give her father eternal life.  Barbosa wants to take Blackbeard’s life, out of revenge for the loss of his leg.  The missionary saves a mermaid (her tear is needed for eternal life) and begins to see her as something more than a soul-less creature.  [We find out later that the mermaid also spared the missionary’s life out of love for him.]  Jack Sparrow ends up saving the life of Blackbeard’s daughter, out of some mixture of love and guilt.  Are you following all this?  The climax actually sorts everything out in a fascinating way…don’t read anymore if you don’t want to know the ending!

All three search parties finally make it the fountain of youth.  While the English and Blackbeard’s pirates fight, the Spanish finally show up.  The Spanish commander gives the best line of the movie as he casts away Ponce de Leon’s magical chalices: “Only God can grant eternal life, not this pagan water.”  Hooray for the Spanish!  Love the Spanish!  Then another great line is given to Blackbeard: “You are a fool.  You seek in this place what only faith can provide.”  Of course, we get the response of the cynical, athiestic Blackbeard next: “In faith there is light enough to see, but darkness enough to blind.”  What? Take that, Christian!

It actually gets even more interesting after that exchange.  The mermaid retrieves the chalices and declares to Jack Sparrow: “Don’t waste my tear” (translated: give eternal life to someone worthwhile).  From the fight over the fountain of youth, both Blackbeard and his daughter are mortally wounded.  Blackbeard chooses to save himself when he could have saved his daughter, still operating from his own selfish wickedness.  But Jack, knowing sinful human nature, switches the chalices, saving the daughter and killing Blackbeard instead.  And then comes his great line on salvation: “Your father saved you, perhaps he now has eternal life.” And finally, the missionary finds ultimately his eternal in the depths of the sea with the beautiful mermaid, who says: “I can save you if you only ask.” 

Now when I first saw the movie with my children last summer, I asked them a simple question to get the conversation started: “Who’s the real hero of the story?”  Was it Jack for giving eternal life to Blackbeard’s daughter?  Was it the mermaid for the giving of her tear and the salvation of the missionary?  Was it Barbosa for effectively killing the bad guy, Blackbeard?  Or, were the Spanish the true heroes, for pursuing the destruction of the pagan temple of eternal life?  You probably know my answer.  The Spanish clearly stayed committed to this foundational Biblical truth: Eternal life is found in Christ alone.  These seemingly narrow-minded religious zealots really understood the source of true life.

Pirates 4 reminds us that people have always sought eternal life outside of Jesus Christ.  In our day, we have all manner of “fountains of youth” that deceive us into thinking they will extend our lives or give us abundant lives.  I’ll leave it to you to think through what some of those idolatrous fountains are!  Many people seek them aggressively like Blackbeard and his pirates.  Others are simply pragmatists about eternal life, like Jack Sparrow.  And, unfortunately, there are even those within our churches who, like the missionary, abandon their faith for idolatrous loves.  May we always be zealous like the Spanish, both believing in Christ alone for eternal life and proclaiming that truth to the world!

  1. DustyOldTrail says:

    Even though I sometimes disagree with J C Kwaz, I like his worldview reviews. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual allegory stories. Thanks for the review

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