I don’t really want to talk about whether or not Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a good movie. I’ll just leave it at this – I enjoyed it, in the way that one can enjoy a summer action film while still finding aspects of the setting, story, and execution deeply problematic.
Some parts, of course, were much more enjoyable than others. Like, pretty much every line of former-Commodore James Norrington’s dialogue, for example. That has more to do with my huge crush on Jack Davenport’s voice than with the script, but hey! Enjoyment is enjoyment, yes?
But for all the time I spent ogling Will Turner’s (Orlando Bloom) sword-work and Captain Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) eyeliner, and swooning over everything Norrington said, my favorite part of the movie was really Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley).
Now, it is assuredly possible to craft a feminist critique that will say some very harsh things about Swann – that all of her difficult decisions seem to revolve around which men to kiss and which to betray, for example, is the sort of thing that makes me twitchy – but there is one thing about the character which I will always love.
She totally uses swords in this film! Two swords at once! And a gun! Swann does her fair share of problem-solving through quick thinking, talking, and trickery, but when the situation calls for a physical fight, she’s up for that, too.
This is still a fairly unusual thing for female characters in fantasy films, though it’s on the rise. I’m thrilled to see a character who is as competent in a fight as Elizabeth Swann in the (relatively) mainstream Pirates of the Caribbean films. And whatever else I may find problematic or distasteful about these films, I will always have a special fondness for Swann’s fight scenes.
Now if only people would start making fantasy films with more than one physically competent main female character in them”¦