The Plot Hole Problem – Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. One of the reasons why I love the series is because screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have done a good job of maintaining continuity despite how convoluted the plot becomes. Yet when On Stranger Tides released it seemed like every second review complained of plot holes. Naturally, I was left confused and asking, “What plot holes?”

The following are some commonly alleged plot holes in On Stranger Tides, and responses to same:

Why was the Black Pearl in a bottle?

Blackbeard keeps ships in bottles as trophies. How he does this isn’t explained because it’s not integral to the plot.

What happens to the missionary Phillip at the end?

This is somewhat ambiguous but some blink-and-you-miss-it dialogue hints at an answer: just prior to the mermaid action set piece halfway through the film, one of the pirates says that a mermaid’s kiss protects a sailor from drowning. At the end, the mermaid Syrena kisses Phillip before pulling him into the water, presumably saving him from a watery grave.

How does Blackbeard zombify his henchmen?

How does magic work? It’s sufficient to know that Blackbeard can zombify his henchmen – further explanation isn’t needed (it’s not a plot hole).

Some analysis however suggests a possible explanation: the zombies in On Stranger Tides are not the undead popularised by 20th century cinema and literature, rather they are voodoo zombies; they are the dead revived by magic and under the caster’s control since they have no will of their own. The implication is that Blackbeard practices voodoo. This is supported by the fact that he also makes and uses what is clearly a voodoo doll of Jack.

How does Blackbeard control his ship?

Blackbeard’s sword enables him to control ships at sea. This is never explicitly stated but there are clues:

  • When Blackbeard first ends Jack Sparrow’s mutiny on the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the camera focuses on Blackbeard’s sword several times and he’s shown directing the ship’s rigging with it.

  • During the mermaid attack, Blackbeard’s sword is used to remotely control the Queen Anne’s Revenge to herd the mermaids towards shore.
  • Barbossa reveals that the Black Pearl’s rigging came to life when Blackbeard attacked, suggesting the sword’s powers are not limited to controlling the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
  • When Barbossa confronts Blackbeard the following dialogue is exchanged:

Blackbeard: “You… dare face this sword?”
Barbossa: “This far away from your ship? Aye.”

  • Upon defeating Blackbeard, Barbossa claims the sword for his own and is later shown using it to set a course for Tortuga with the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

If Blackbeard can control his ship, why does he need a crew?

Common sense – just because someone can do something doesn’t mean they want to spend every waking minute of their time doing it. Besides, what kind of pirate captain doesn’t have a crew? Blackbeard’s crew came in handy several times, such as in capturing Syrena and when away from the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Blackbeard’s flag is wrong!

In On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard survived past his historical death at Ocracoke Inlet in 1718 and adopted a new flag. Jack addresses Blackbeard by referencing the real-life rumours of his death: “Beheaded they say. Still, your body swam three times around your ship, then climbed back onboard.”

Blackbeard’s original flag is referenced however, both by the figurehead of the Queen Anne’s Revenge and the stained glass window in the captain’s cabin – though the latter is obscured in the film. Interestingly, it seems that Blackbeard’s original flag was adopted by one of the Pirate Lords in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Why would the Royal Navy hire a pirate like Barbossa?

Barbossa became a privateer in the employ of England – an opportunity which was offered to Jack by Lord Cutler Beckett in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Historically, it wasn’t unheard of for pirates to be pardoned in exchange for their services as a privateer.

Why didn’t Barbossa cut the ropes wrapping around his leg instead of cutting his leg off?

If he could have done that then perhaps he would have. It’s not hard to imagine a situation in which that wasn’t a viable option.

How couldn’t they realise that it wasn’t the real Justice Smith at the beginning?

Watch the scene again – the officials were bribed!

Were the sailors really stupid enough to believe that Angelica was Jack?

Angelica explains that as long as her sailors got their money then they were happy to put up with any number of peculiarities.

Why didn’t the Spanish destroy the chalices when they first found them?

The Spanish viewed the Fountain of Youth as ‘pagan water’ and an affront to God. Suffice to say that they wanted to destroy the Fountain and not just the chalices, which were needed to open the way.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is far from flawless, but I just want to point out that whatever problems it does have aren’t necessarily because of plot holes.

If you think I’ve missed something or if you’ve found a legitimate plot hole post it below and I’ll endeavour to respond – I’m more than happy to acknowledge plot holes when they actually exist!

Have your say!

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  1. Very interesting. I want to watch again now.

  2. I totally agree.

    I have seen extremes, like one guy say that he not understand how “the spanish” was always one step forward… That is definitely not a plot hole!…
    In which direction was watching him during the first minutes of the movie?

    I’ll be waiting for the next analysis!

  3. Paws the Flying Dutchman in one of the bottles close to the black pearl. Looked like it was


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