Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth disappeared after At World’s End, and her return in Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t exactly clarify what she’s been up to.
Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) reunites with Will (Orlando Bloom) at the conclusion of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but her absence from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides leaves a large period of time in her life unaccounted for. The Pirates of the Caribbean series is centered around the supernatural misadventures of the frequently-inebriated Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), but the original trilogy also made a point of contrasting his slapstick character with the romantic leads of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner. An Elizabeth Swann Pirates of the Caribbean return has been requested since the third movie, but the Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann cameo showing their reunion in Dead Men Tell No Tales left much to be desired for the iconic Governers-daughter-turned-Pirate-King.
Beginning as a reluctant socialite, Elizabeth experiences a more drastic character arc than any of the other leads, her experiences at sea necessitating that she become increasingly adept at navigating the cutthroat, self-sufficient world of piracy. This culminates in her appointment to the Brethren Court and participation in the defeat of Cutler Beckett’s (Tom Hollander) armada, but even these accomplishments cannot prevent the death of Will, her newlywed husband, at the hands of the octopus-faced villain, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Will is ultimately revived by his father “Bootstrap” Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) and Jack Sparrow, but as a consequence he is bound to serve eternally as the captain of the Flying Dutchman, leaving Elizabeth to guard the Dead Man’s Chest that holds his heart and raise their child, Henry, alone.
The next time Elizabeth is seen, she is tending to and living in a lighthouse in Jamaica, having led a secluded life until her son’s destruction of the Trident of Poseidon allowed Will to return. Although Dead Men Tell No Tales shows very little of this part of her life, it looks as though she has maintained the retirement from piracy that she took after the events of At World’s End. She seems to have left the social connections of her (original) past life behind as well, as Henry does not seem to have received any special treatment when he joined the British Royal Navy despite being the grandson of a governor. This may be due in part to her marriage to Will, which, in addition to being difficult to legally verify, would be a socially downward move. Here’s the Elizabeth Swann Pirates of the Caribbean story after Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
Elizabeth Swann Gave Up Piracy And Pomposity For Parenthood
But if Elizabeth Swann eschewed proper English society, she had an even more important position to consider when abandoning her past. After being made Pirate Lord of the South China Sea by Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat). The Elizabeth Swann Pirates of the Caribbean story arc peaked in potential when she was elected Pirate King of the Brethren Court (through the unexpected support of Jack Sparrow). This was not insignificant, as she was only the second person to hold the title in the organization’s history. It’s unclear what her exact responsibilities in this capacity would be, but given her ability to launch the pirates of the Seven Seas into a war against the East India Trading Company, one can assume that they were considerable. However, no earthshaking nautical events look to have affected the world of Dead Men Tell No Tales, so it is likely that the Brethren Court was not called again following the War Against Piracy or Elizabeth perhaps abdicated her throne.
By most estimations, the Pirates of the Caribbean films seem to have paid little mind to what Elizabeth did after At World’s End, instead choosing to focus on the continued exploits of Jack Sparrow. Since it’s been confirmed that neither Depp nor Disney is eager for the actor to return as Jack Sparrow, there may be more room for neglected characters in future storylines. Hopefully, now that she has been reintroduced and her family reunited, the series will take the opportunity to focus more on the incredible power and experience that writer’s favorite Elizabeth Swann possesses beyond just her roles as a mother and a wife.
Why Pirates 5 Wasted Elizabeth Swann
Bringing back Elizabeth Swann after At World’s End meant more than servicing Pirates of the Caribbean fans. The character is an underrated feminist icon whose name will likely build more respect as the generation of women and girls she inspired to continue redefining the 21st century. Elizabeth’s journey from Governor’s daughter to literal Pirate King in the original Pirates trilogy was inspiring, and she was one of the first heroines to buck the trend of playing second-fiddle to two male leads. Her resourcefulness, as shown when she burned the rum to make a smoke signal, and her fearlessness throughout Pirates 1-3 are qualities that most leading female characters have emulated in recent movies. However, if it wasn’t for Knightley building upon the foundations laid by characters like galactic senator Princess Leia (Star Wars) and Ellen Ripley (Alien franchise), modern cinema would have far fewer Katniss Everdeens and way more Bella Swans (from The Hunger Games and Twilight, respectively).
That’s why Elizabeth Swann’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales cameo was so insulting to the character. Pirates fandom and lore aside, the fifth installment reduced Elizabeth Swann to a dialogue-free, contractually-obligated appearance. What’s more, having Elizabeth turn her back on piracy and opt for motherhood while she played the forlorn widow routine felt like a slap in the face. While there’s nothing wrong with opting for domesticity for any gender, Elizabeth as a character was so much more than her relationship with Will Turner. An ending where she balanced being a single parent with her duties as Pirate King would have felt much more satisfactory. Many Pirates of the Caribbean fans would have happily swapped the reductive cameo for a simple line of dialogue confirming that Elizabeth’s adventures didn’t end just because Will became captain of the Flying Dutchman.
Next: Pirates of the Caribbean Movie Timeline Explained
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