Review: Plots, Sub-Plots, Mermaids, and Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean Priest-Mermaid Love Subplot

Quite often when I am watching a movie and sometimes when I am reading a book, I find I am more interested in a side story or supporting character than I am in the protagonist or the main plot line. This is especially true when I feel that the protagonist is in no real jeopardy. Often, it’s the supporting characters that bite the dust, so I feel more tension. Maybe, this time the hero of the sub-plot won’t bite the dust.

I most recently had this experience when I saw Pirates of the Caribbean 4, On Stranger Tides.

*** Spoiler Alert, I suppose, if the third sequel in a movie franchise like Pirates of the Caribbean can be spoiled ***

I was supposed to care about Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. I could care less about either one of them. I could care less about the plot—a search for the fountain of youth. When Jack Sparrow’s love interest was in danger at the climax of the story, how much did I care? Not much.

Conversely, the side story revolving around Philip, the priest, was a sub-plot that was more intriguing, as he fell for a mermaid. Mermaid myths vary, but in the Pirates of the Caribbean canon, mermaids are beguiling creatures that trick a sailor into a kiss and than drag the sailor underwater and eat him alive.

The priest-mermaid love plot is an offshoot of the main plot. A mermaids tear, among other items, is required for the fountain of youth to work; so a mermaid is captured, put in a glass coffin, and dragged across the jungle.

During the trek, Philip uses his bible to hold the coffin lid open so the mermaid can breath when she is in danger of suffocating. After the coffin breaks open, he gallantly removes his shirt to cloak the now completely naked (she changes into a person like Daryl Hannah in Splash) mermaid and carry her through the jungle. After her tear is captured, she is left to die, and Philip becomes a prisoner of Blackbeard the pirate. Will Philip returns escape to rescue the mermaid?

He does escape, but is wounded in process. He struggles to reach the dying mermaid and rescue her. And what happens next is what sets this sub-plot off from the predictable Jack Sparrow plot.

He does, in fact, save the mermaid. Lying next to the pool where she is swimming about, he professes the new meaning in his life since he met her … She promises to heal his wound … They kiss, and then—the mermaid drags him into the pool and pulls him down to a watery grave.

There you have it, legitimate peril that ends badly, as it often does for the hero of the sub-plot.