At nearly 20 years old, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has established itself as a timeless classic. With a tight, action-filled plot populated by memorable characters, the first entry into the Pirates of the Caribbean series still stands as an exemplary film — partially because no scene gets wasted. On top of this, the characters in the film are clever and memorable in every which way, none more so than Captain Jack Sparrow, portrayed excellently by Johnny Depp.
Captain Jack’s character is packed full of charm, wit and cleverness, and part of the joy of watching him get into scrapes is watching him think his way back out. He is a captain bursting with ingenuity who can adapt to any setting, as shown when he disables the Dauntless. So, let’s look at how Jack was able to take out the mighty flagship.
Everyone remembers the clever means by which Captain Jack and Will Turner sneak aboard the Dauntless — by crossing the harbor beneath the water, using a lifeboat as a diving bell. Whether through madness or brilliance, it gets them aboard the Dauntless undetected, which leads to a clever double-blind. By convincing Commodore Norrington that they’re trying to commandeer the ship, they trick him into sailing the much-faster and already-prepped Interceptor over. Once every navy man is over on the bigger ship, Will and Captain Jack cut the lines and sail off on the Interceptor, assured of their escape because the Dauntless’ rudder is disabled.
But that still doesn’t explain how Captain Jack disabled the rudder. A casual viewing might suggest that he did it after they chased the Dauntless’ crew into a lifeboat, as they then had plenty of time before the group could row within shouting distance of the Interceptor. And yet, in a blink-and-you-miss-it shot, how the Dauntless was done away with is shown clearly on-screen: while on their way to the ship, Will accidentally steps in a lobster trap, which gets used to disable the rudder.
It’s easy to miss this little detail, and the movie glosses over it — the shot doesn’t particularly linger here before panning up, and the trap serves a secondary purpose by allowing Captain Jack and Will to climb up the back of the ship. Furthermore, the later comment of “he’s disabled the rudder chain” both reinforces and fills in for this scene. But in this quick shot, Captain Jack’s ingenuity and adaptability are highlighted. He probably had a general idea of how to take the ship, but Will stepping into the trap was a happy accident that he took full advantage of. That demonstrates Captain Jack’s ability to think on his feet, something he’s able to do both before and after this particular scene.
And it’s this ability that allows Captain Jack to survive the series — he plans, but he’s not married to whatever plan he makes. He’s also quick to spot an advantage and use it, as seen in his fight with Will, and willing to use both environments and people to get what he wants. Will might accuse him of cheating, but as Captain Jack points out, that enabled him to come out on top — and it’s behavior that Will, Elizabeth and even Barbossa end up emulating. Captain Jack Sparrow might act like a rum-sodden pirate, but for all his teetering, he’s quick to adjust to any squall.