But does the one true hero exist? Let’s look at one of my favorite Hollywood blockbusters of the last decade: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Who’s the protagonist? I usually assume that the protagonist is the one who changes the most, the one who has the longest inner journey. That’s clearly Orlando Bloom’s character. He goes from hating pirates with a passion to declaring himself a pirate.
But Todd Alcott recently did a fantastic four-part analysis of this screenplay over at his blog. He declares that Keira Knightley’s character is the sole protagonist. She’s certainly the POV character for the opening scenes and her desire to be a pirate sets the whole story in motion. The movie is her wish fulfillment fantasy.
Of course, Johnny Depp is the one we like the most, and the movie does end on him getting what he wants, so maybe it’s him. After all, he’s the only one they bothered to re-hire for the fourth movie that’s currently in production…
But wait, on his own advice blog, John August recently declared that the protagonist is always the person who suffers the most. Well then it’s Geoffrey Rush! Actually, that makes a lot of sense: the other three are pursuing pleasure (Elizabeth and Jack want to go to sea, Will wants Elizabeth). Rush on the other hand is trying to make amends for his past, lift an evil curse, and save his whole crew, all while suffering horrible torments. Now that’s a hero’s journey!