[Caution: spoilers ahead]
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a moving paean to fatherhood. The entire movie centers around Henry Turner’s quest to release his father Will from a curse damning him to eternal servitude on The Flying Dutchman. The movie opens with 12-year-old Henry locating the sunken ship which holds his father captive. Henry says, “I’ve read about a treasure. A treasure that holds all the power of the sea. The Trident of Poseidon can break your curse. … I want you to come home.” Will tells his son to leave: “Henry. I’m sorry. My curse will never be broken. This is my fate.”
Nine years later, Henry is working aboard a British naval ship, which chases a pirate craft into the Devil’s Triangle. There they encounter Captain Salazar and his crew, who are also accursed and trapped as the living dead. After his father’s death at the hands of pirates, Salazar dedicated his life to cleansing the seas of pirates, hunting down and killing them all until tricked into the Triangle by Jack Sparrow.
Later, Henry meets a young astronomer and horologist, Carina, who has also spent her life seeking her long-lost father. Her father left her the means to find Poseidon’s Trident, and she believes that finding it will lead her to him.
What strikes me about this movie is the three above-mentioned characters’ obsession with freeing, avenging or finding their fathers. With today’s modern Western societies where people believe that two females can parent a child as well as the child’s biological parents, it is refreshing to see a movie which affirms the importance of the father in a person’s life. The father is an integral part of the child’s identity. We find our identity in relationship with others, not as singular individuals. And no-one on earth can fully replace our biological parents. This is demonstrated by people who were adopted or donor-conceived spending years searching for their biological parents, even when they love the people who raised them as their own. We have this need for belonging with people who share our ancestry, especially the people who gave part of their bodies to give life to us.
In the end, Carina and her piratical father meet, and they each verbally affirm that the other means everything to them. Everything. Although they have never really known each other, they love each other to the point of complete self-sacrifice. Carina has sacrificed her entire life for the one purpose of finding him, and he sacrifices his life to save her from the unforgiving Salazar.
The family is the image of the Holy Trinity, a communion of love, and our parents are the image of God to us; all fathers share in the divine fatherhood of God. God is our true everything, and it is worth it to sacrifice all for Him, just as He did for us (John 3:16). Henry is a Christlike figure, a second Adam who “to the fight/and to the rescue came”. Instead of wielding the Trident, which would have given him control over all the seas, Henry destroys it, as Christ freely laid down his life out of love for us, although as God He could very well have controlled us instead. Henry descends into the ocean depths and frees all the accursed, including his father, and reunites his parents, just as Christ descended into Hell and freed Adam and all mankind from the shackles of sin and death, bringing us to new life and reuniting us with the heavenly family of God.