Pirates of the Caribbean vs Titanic

Pirates of the Caribbean and Titanic are two totally different films since the former is fact and the latter is fiction although to some extent, both have some similarities or co-incidences with each other apart from the fact that they are set at sea. The films were both distributed by popular companies, starred popular actors and were made by noted directors, providing a breakthrough for some of the cast in the respective films. I first saw Titanic when it came to theatres in Christmas of 1997 and despite its upsetting scenes I found myself unable to cry and could just stare blankly at the screen from beginning to end although later in life I would read more about the true stories of the ship that was wrongly thought of as unsinkable. Six years later I saw Pirates of the Caribbean in September of 2003 (two months after its original release) in theatres and given my familiarity with the ‘robbers of the sea’, realized that this film had changed the way one looks at a pirate. I would discover later on that the film was based on a theme park ride at Disneyland which was born out of the fascination that Walt Disney, the creator and namesake of Disney had with piracy.

While Titanic is a true story, albeit historical fiction, Pirates of the Caribbean is based on a theme park ride of the same name at Disneyland although it was also inspired by the fascination of Walt Disney (the creator and namesake of Disney) with historical pirates. This analogy describes the number of co-incidences that Titanic has with Pirates of the Caribbean. On a personal note (though) I wish to say to those who have finished watching Titanic and are feeling emotional as a result, watch Pirates of the Caribbean to feel better.


Introduction: differing plots
While this document mainly focuses on the seeming similarities between both Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean, both films for the most part are sparsely different through the following plots.


Titanic (December 19th 1997)
When diving to the wreck of the famous RMS Titanic, the main purpose of treasure hunter Brock Lovett in doing so is to find a rare jewel known as the ‘heart of the ocean’ believed to be stored in a cabinet on the ship. However despite retrieving the cabinet, his celebration is cut short when nothing is found there except the nude painting of a woman. When the elderly New Yorker Rose Calvert sees Lovett’s findings on television, she contacts him and confirms that that the woman in the picture is her and visits him with her granddaughter Lizzie before narrating the story of how she was a first class passenger aboard the ill-fated Titanic and underwent pressure from her mother to marry business tycoon Caledon Hockley in order to make up for their financial debts. Contemplating suicide, Rose is saved by second-class passenger Jack Dawson whose reluctantly grateful fiancée invites him to dinner but changes his mind about Jack when he comes to know that Rose partied with him in first class. Even though her mother and fiancée threaten her not to see him, Rose realizes she prefers Jack over Cal and they both fall in love. When the ship collides with an iceberg, amongst the panicked passengers and crew, their survival and love for each other is put to the test.


Pirates of the Caribbean (July 9th 2003)
Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann has been fascinated by pirates since she was a child and her life changes when on the way to Port Royal where her father has been posted, they rescue Will Turner, a boy stranded at sea. Elizabeth believes him to be a pirate due to a gold skeletal medallion that he wears and secretly takes it for herself. 8 years later, Elizabeth has come of age to be married to Admiral James Norrington of the British Royal Navy while Will Turner despite harbouring love for Elizabeth has come to work under a blacksmith. The same day that Will forges a sword for Norrington, Jack Sparrow, a pirate without a ship arrives in Port Royal and despite saving Elizabeth from drowning due to her tightening corset, is sought for capture by the Navy. Thanks to Will Turner, Jack is captured but that night more pirates attack from a ship known as the Black Pearl and take Elizabeth hostage due to the medallion that she bears. Will breaks Jack out of prison due to the pirate’s familiarity with the Black Pearl and the two launch a rescue of Elizabeth from Jack’s mutinous former mate, Barbossa although later on Jack and Will come to realize that the medallion that Elizabeth took from Will is part of an ancient treasure that curses anyone to be undead if they touch a single piece and take it for their own, unless a blood sacrifice is made.


Both Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean are historical fiction although Titanic was more factual than Pirates of the Caribbean albeit with some original events that were not part of the story, thanks to the creators. Both stories are set at sea yet Titanic happens in the middle of the Atlantic ocean while Pirates of the Caribbean as the name suggests is set in the Caribbean as well as original locations created by the makers for the film. James Cameron and Gore Verbinski, the directors of Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean respectively had a fascination with the elements that inspired their films even before making them; Cameron was always interested in shipwrecks from an early age and wanted to make a story about the RMS Titanic, mixing it with a love story set on board the ship so that it would convey a more stronger feeling about the tragedy of those on board who did not survive the sinking. Pirates of the Caribbean was born out of Verbinski’s fascination with pirates and his interest in making a pirate story after purchasing the rights to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride which he enjoyed immensely as a child. The theme park ride was also born out of Walt Disney’s fascination with pirates from an early age although when it came to the script behind each film, James Cameron wrote the entire script for Titanic by himself while the script for Pirates of the Caribbean was written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rosio. It is interesting that among the central characters in each film, the main ones have the same name, Jack (Dawson) in Titanic and Jack (Sparrow) in Pirates of the Caribbean. Unlike the latter however who was not based on any historical person (or pirate for that matter), there is a belief that the former may have been inspired by a person of the same name whose grave was uncovered amongst those who did not survive the sinking of the Titanic.

There are a number of co-incidences in terms of production and connection for each film; Matthew McConaughey was considered for the title role of both Jack Dawson in Titanic and Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. Leonardo DiCaprio who played Jack Dawson in Titanic worked with Johnny Depp, the portrayer of Jack Sparrow in What’s eating Gilbert Grape in 1993 a decade before the film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride released. Ten months before the release of Titanic in 1997, the film Donnie Brasco was released. Starring Johnny in the role of Joseph D. Pistone aka Donnie Brasco, the film was a true story about a cop who infiltrated the American mafia as an undercover spy in the 1970s

Both films were also produced by popular film companies; Titanic was produced by 20th Century Fox and Pirates of the Caribbean by Disney although the film was based on a Disney element itself.


Genre and length
Both films are relatively short with Titanic at 195 minutes and Pirates of the Caribbean at 143 minutes although the former is longer than the latter

While both are adventure films, Titanic’s genre also involves romance and tragedy while Pirates of the Caribbean’s genre revolves around fantasy and adventure with hints of romance. Unlike Titanic which is told through flashbacks and narration, Pirates of the Caribbean is told chronologically


Collaborations with composers
Since he began his career as a filmmaker, James Cameron collaborated with James Horner to compose the score for most of his movies and Titanic was no exception. The same thing happened with Pirates of the Caribbean where Gore Verbinski collaborated with Hans Zimmer although unlike Cameron and Horner whose collaboration went a long way, Verbinski only collaborated with Zimmer for a second time. Titanic also had a theme song sung by Celine Dion called ‘My heart will go on’ whose instrumental theme became part of the background score for the film and became instantly identifiable with not just the film but all real-life elements related to the historical Titanic. Pirates of the Caribbean did not have any songs however, its score became really popular especially ‘He’s a Pirate’ and that had the same effect; the theme became identifiable with not just (Captain) Jack Sparrow but all pirates, historical or fictional. Most of the score however was composed by Klaus Badelt and Zimmer was only a supporting composer

Chinese Zodiac references

Both Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean feature animals that have something to do with the Chinese Zodiac. Titanic features appearances from both dogs and rats, both species of which are part of the Chinese Zodiac. In Pirates of the Caribbean, while a dog does appear, another member of the Chinese Zodiac to make an appearance is a monkey. The horse which is a member of the Chinese Zodiac as well appears in both films which is a logical aspect only since during the timeframe of both movies, horses were the way to get around.


The Jewel Connection
Both films involve an element related to jewellery which triggers the plot of the story and seems to have some historical basis to it. The Heart of the Ocean in Titanic is believed to have been carved into a diamond from an antique owned by King Louis XVI shortly after his execution and through unknown circumstances it was later purchased in 1912 by steel tycoon Caledon Hockley for his fiancée Rose although it is in her hands only at certain points in the film and by the time she survives the sinking, she is finally in ownership of the diamond. The medallion in Pirates of the Caribbean is actually part of a cursed treasure that the Aztecs offered to conquistador Hernan Cortes to spare their lives but this just increased his greed and eventually, the Heathen Gods cursed the treasure so that anyone who took a piece from it would be cursed for eternity as a damned person. Around the time that Barbossa and his crew discover the treasure, they also led a mutiny against Jack Sparrow, too late in realizing that while taking the treasure against Sparrow’s warning not to, that his only crewmember not to agree to the mutiny was Bootstrap Bill Turner who sent a piece of the gold to his son Will who would later be found and rescued at sea by Elizabeth Swann and her father Weatherby on the day they were heading to Port Royal where Weatherby would be posted and his daughter would take the gold medallion for herself without him knowing it out of fear that he was a pirate. The difference is unlike Titanic, in Pirates of the Caribbean, Elizabeth is captured by the pirates who have come to reclaim the treasure while Rose is rarely in possession of the Ocean Heart. Perhaps the only similarities are when Rose upon surviving the Titanic sinking and realizing the Heart of the Ocean was with her all along as she arrives in New York (where the Titanic was supposed to head to had she not sunk) on the Carpathia, gives her name as ‘Rose Dawson’ adopting the surname of the man she loved, Jack Dawson. When Elizabeth is taken hostage by two of Barbossa’s crew, Pintel and Ragetti, to negotiate with their captain about ceasing his attacks on Port Royal, she gives her name as ‘Elizabeth Turner’ out of inspiration for Will whom she loves (and who loves her in turn) causing Barbossa to take her hostage believing that she is the one who can help in stopping the curse of the treasure since her father thought to be Bootstrap Bill was the one whose blood would be required to be spilt on the treasure to stop the curse which leads to Jack Sparrow and Will Turner to set out to rescue her. It is co-incidence only that much as Rose throws her diamond back into the Ocean, the Medallion is returned to its other parts of the treasure by the end except Rose is 100 years old by the time she parts with the diamond while the medallion is returned to its chest by Will not Elizabeth



Premiere and public reaction
Both films had their premieres in Los Angeles although Titanic had its premiere at the at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre while Pirates of the Caribbean had its release in Disneyland since that is where the ride that inspired the film came from. Before its American premiere however, Titanic did premiere at a film festival in Tokyo, Japan although Pirates of the Caribbean did have premieres in London and Ireland as well (despite not being linked to any film festival). Each film was not expected to be a hit although in the case of Titanic, such a belief came about because it was one of the most expensive films ever made while in the case of Pirates of the Caribbean, it was because the pirate genre had not been successful for years and its leading star Johnny Depp rarely made a big film. However both films became a smash hit with critics praising Titanic for bringing about emotions and a sense of romanticism on the RMS Titanic as well as further popularising the ship that was (wrongly) thought of as ‘unsinkable’ while critics praised Pirates of the Caribbean for bringing about a new view of Pirates through a notion that ‘not all pirates are evil’ and a longing for adventure at sea.


Both Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean were nominated for numerous awards, especially at the Oscars. However unlike Pirates of the Caribbean, Titanic actually won numerous Oscars, including for Best Director for James Cameron. Nevertheless, regarding Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp did receive his first Oscar nomination.


The End


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.