This is going to contrast my normal formula of “Good Villain = Good Story.” It simply doesn’t add up here! I know a lot of people hate this character, but I think that has more to do with the story he’s apart of instead of the character himself.
So let’s talk about Davy Jones. I know, as bad as the movie that introduced him was, Davy Jones wasn’t really a bad character, not at all…
Maybe it’s just me and my personal bias of being drawn to the tragic villains. Part of the reason this movie didn’t do so well (aside from Jack and Barbosa being more side characters than stars) was the shallowness of each character. The heroes and lovers were exactly the heroes and lovers you’d expect from a Disney princess flick. The East India baddies were profit drive, no real dimension there… and the rest were just present for their stereotypical antics. It was a bland movie with no real surprises, and the plot suffered for it. No surprises… save one…
Davy Jones, despite the hate, is one of the most well-done tortured soul villains I’ve ever seen. Had this movie been better, Davy Jones might have been as legendary a villain as Darth Vader himself, but such was not to be. You first meet Davy Jones when he arrives to recruit a group of shipwrecked sailors to his cause and then tries to collect his debt from Jack Sparrow. Though it is never really mentioned in the movie, it does appear that Davy Jones was made out to be some sort of combination of the Grim Reaper and the Devil himself. Both roles, he plays well. He was easily hate-able and we all did so.
But then the movie takes a surprise twist. The first scene we see him on his own ship, in private, we hear his dark organ playing, and see Jones in anguish to the point of physical pain. It’s as though playing the song from his music box is the only way to relieve it, even though doing so breaks him down. That’s when you realize the true madness behind this character. The movie does an incredible job of really making you feel his pain and see what he’s going through without uttering a single word. I remember when I saw this movie in theaters, my throat got tight and my eyes began to water at this scene. At this point you already know his tragic story about how he was scorned by a cruel lover, but you really don’t understand the extent of the damage done until you see him here:
Even his theme music is shockingly painful. Listen to it play on the organ. The song sounds painful, but at the same time there is an almost comforting element to it. It is almost as though his former love wrote it to drive him to further insanity, but then calm him down and mellow him at the same time to keep him going and prolong his torture. I like to think that she wrote this for him because it’s just further proof of how cruel she was.
This certainly isn’t the first time Disney has done something like this. They did the same exact thing in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Seriously, watch the organ scene, you can see the demented evil, but at the same time, you can see that under the stoic, angry, and harsh exterior, a shred of his former humanity still exists. Ironically it is this one last shred of his former self that pushes him even further into madness. It is a scene that is done extremely well both times Disney employs it.
Perhaps the biggest bit of irony throughout the entire Pirates series that he is a part of, he is perhaps the only true innocent. I know, I know, he sank ships, murdered people, and was incredibly cruel to anyone he came across… but look at how he got there. Throughout his entire story, he was used and abused. First tasked to ferry souls for 10 years… 10 years he worked just to spend one day with the one he loved, only for her not to show up. As if that wasn’t bad enough, now you have the rest of the cast looking to either kill him, or use him as a puppet to carry out their whims. He is given no peace, no chance at redemption, and is forever locked in as a slave to his surroundings. Truly, there can be no more tragic a character. He even says to Jack Sparrow ‘My Freedom was forfeit long ago!’
My only criticism of this character is that they made him a little too awkward, which takes on a comical view that you see in the third movie, which makes him hard to take seriously. Ironically as he became a less dynamic character, the other characters became less stale and At World’s End turned out to be an improvement. I only wonder at what cost.
But I’m not really talking about his evolution in the third movie, I am more referring to his character from the second one, he was, and continues to be the only reason I still give Dead Man’s Chest decent markings and rate it as at least watchable.
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