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Thoughts on Will Turner - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Thoughts on Will Turner
So, I've been reading reviews of PotC. I won't give any of the spoilers (though I suspect my f-list is more up on them than I am), but I just have to spit and hiss about a critic (and he's not the only one I've seen) going on about, "Oh, well, Will never did turn into a real character... don't expect him to be interesting..."

God, how I hate the whole "only great big huge colorful people are real characters" mindset. I like Jack, too, but you know what? It's Will who held it together and gave it substance. Jack is a fluffy, delicious dessert; Will is healthy vegetables. Jack is better in every way, except that you can live without dessert, but without solid vegetables, you're going to be in a heap of trouble.

And what's this about Will not having a discernable personality? He's reasonably bright, devoted to the people he cares about, brave, a bit self-righteous sometimes, responsible, a little stuffy... there are a lot of things we know about his personality, and yes, it's because those things are evident in the writing and performance of the character. Unless, of course, you happen to be a movie critic who prefers theatrical gesture to character substance, in which case, maybe they should put in little bubbles, like VH1 used to, explaining what lines mean about each character's motivation. It's not a big flamboyant personality, but more like an actual person's personality.

And no, I don't think Orlando Bloom is ever going to rival Olivier in the history of his craft. But the charge that Will's personality isn't coming across isn't at all fair to him or to the screenwriter. (At least in one or two; I haven't seen three, maybe the characterization work suddenly all disappears. But the critic in question was talking about all three movies, and I can at least comment on two thirds of the issue.)
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Comments
sophonax From: sophonax Date: May 22nd, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I only saw the first movie and wasn't hugely impressed with it, but I do want to show as much support as possible for the larger idea that "not having a personality" and "not having a wildly flamboyant personality" are not at all the same thing.
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pathstotread From: pathstotread Date: May 22nd, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I definitely agree with you. I mean, Jack is fantastic, and everyone knows it. But I think Will is fascinating, and I actually prefer him as a character to Jack. Also, I prefer him and Elizabeth as a couple more than Jack/Elizabeth, which isn't exactly the most popular opinion in fandom. Of the three of them, Will's character development in Dead Man's Chest is the one that made the most sense to me, because his motives were reasonably clear - he did everything he did for Elizabeth, and later, his father.

In terms of fandom at large, I see a lot of people saying that good guys are boring and that bad or morally grey characters are far more interesting, but I don't think thats necessarily true. Grand generalizations rarely are, right?
the_jackalope From: the_jackalope Date: May 22nd, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's annoying. And really, where in the world did this reviewer learn about characterizations? I can think of at least a dozen characters, who by this person's standards, wouldn't be a 'real character'. I mean seriously?
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: May 22nd, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think entirely that the problem is that Jack is so bigger-than-life that Will fades in comparison. I think the problem is that people don't value the type of man Will is: he's faithful, he's loyal, he's honest and his values (in particular in the first movie, as I haven't seen the 2nd yet) are opposed to villainous behavior - piracy, in specific, but theft also. Remember his reaction to his discovery that Elizabeth had stolen his father's coin. He understood why she'd done it, but that she'd never returned it...in effect, stolen it from him, hurt him.

That kind of morality isn't in fashion. Those characters are accused of being flat or undeveloped. Too bad. We could use more of them.

IIRC, this was the same sort of thing that Luke Skywalker was accused of in the 3rd movie. I don't remember anyone saying "Hey, Luke stood up and did what was right, despite the consequences, and that's a good character." No, the focus was always on how he had to be rescued by Vader's disloyalty to his master because Luke looked weak in the reviewers' eyes.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm really glad I wasn't old enough to read that stuff when it came out; I think my head would have exploded. I came out of RotJ with a raging not-exactly-crush on Luke. (I desperately wanted him to be my dad rather than anything else. I thought he was most awesomely loyal and strong and wonderful, and was annoyed when they kept cutting away to other people. Why did I like Anakin? Because Luke loved him, man. And what's good enough for someone like Luke Skywalker, that suits me just fine.)

I agree that it's a general devaluing of the personality type, which is, I think, why it bothers me as much as it does. I don't have a great emotional attachment to PotC, but I have a great love for men who are steady and loyal and moral (I agree about his reaction to Elizabeth's theft), and people dismissing them as uninteresting annoys me.
lareinenoire From: lareinenoire Date: May 22nd, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've always seen Will as the trilogy's moral centre, personally. And that in itself makes him an interesting character to me, despite the fact that on the screen he pales in comparison to Jack. But he's not supposed to flamboyant or dramatic; the moral centre is steady, true, and calm.

And yes, I think he's got a personality, at least in the first two films. I'm curious to see what happens in the third.
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: May 22nd, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Critics also seem to forget that Jack Sparrow is not only interesting because he's a unique character in cinema, but also because he's unique within the context of the story. If Will and everybody else was just as loud and strange as Jack, he wouldn't be nearly as fascinating.
matril From: matril Date: May 22nd, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Definitely agree about Will. I myself found the first movie just mildly likable, but after the second one I was so enraged I'm not sure if I even care to see the third. Jack was a side character, a gimmicky bit of comic relief - fun, but not the focus - and then all the sudden he's the point of the story? I was particularly infuriated by the love triangle, which in my personal opinion did not exist in the first movie. It was conceding, I think, to all the ridiculous gushing fangirls drooling over Johnny Depp - er, Jack Sparrow - when it seemed pretty clear that Elizabeth was pretty well devoted to Will in the first movie. And why shouldn't she be? He's good. It's why I love Luke Skywalker. It's why I'm not that interested in Han Solo until he turns heroic and self-sacrificing. It's why I gush over Harry and not bad-boy Draco. Characters who are unabashedly good, that's what I always prefer. People with moral cores who struggle to do the right thing. It's not boring; it's something I fundamentally identify with.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: May 23rd, 2007 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, GOD. Word to EVERYTHING you said about the second film. I couldn't agree more. I remember when I saw it, about halfway through it, I remember thinking "I think I read this fanfic once, but it was more in character." Then I bitched about it to my husband all the way home. And THEN I discovered that I was pretty much the only person on my FL to feel that way.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 23rd, 2007 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
See, I liked it, but was just irritated by that silly subplot. For me, PotC2 was the story of Will finding his father and vowing to rescue him from Davy Jones. I loved that to little itty bitty tiny bits, and the rest barely registered.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: May 23rd, 2007 11:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I think if I could look at the second film that way I'd probably like it as much as you did. To me, though, it was about Studio Execs Trying To Make Jack Funnier. In the first one, Jack was such a great character - an incredible embodiment of the classic Trickster archetype. And the essence of the first film was that a Pirate could still be a Good Man. Jack was the hero, even when it looked like he was leading Will to certain death, etc.

In the second film, he traded Will's life for his own and didn't give a crap, and for the most part set about to prove that a Pirate was, well, just a Pirate. That's what disappointed me.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 23rd, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah--I mostly ignore all "studio exec" interpretations on principle. They're all out to make money.

Since I still saw Jack as a prominent supporting character--he doesn't grow, so he can't be more than a catalyst character--his antics were just a little overdone and took up more screen time than they probably deserved, but he was still fulfilling his function as a figure that forced Will and Elizabeth to define and redefine themselves.
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From: greenwoodside Date: May 23rd, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree. Bloom's so insipid - seeing him onscreen, I mostly want to shake him to see if he rattles. Nothing against quiet moral centres to things, nothing at all, but it does require the ability to suggest a certain intensity - currents beneath still waters and so on. Bloom makes Will seem about as deep as a puddle.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: May 23rd, 2007 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I hated the second one, and don't know much about the third. So this is all based on my observations of the first film. (I agree, Orlando's probably not winning any acting awards anytime soon, but that's kind of too bad. I actually think that he's a pretty subtle actor, based on POTC and Elizabethtown.) Will's the straight man to Jack's insanity. And he plays it with such earnestness that he completely sells it to me. I've always said that Jack Sparrow wouldn't have been as good a character without Will Turner for contrast.

This isn't as coherent as I'd like, I'm tired tonight. But I hope that made some sense.
emmyaward From: emmyaward Date: May 23rd, 2007 03:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad that there's someone other than me that thinks Orlando Bloom is a subtle actor. And I agree with you about Jack not being as a good a character without Will to play off against.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: May 23rd, 2007 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely adored Elizabethtown. I avoided it for ages because I'd heard how awful it was, and finally rented it one night recently. I've since bought it, and my husband thought it was one of the best movies of its kind that he's seen. (I wrote about it here, if you're interested.) I think a lot of critics called him wooden in this film, which made no sense to me, because I saw a lot going on there. I really do think he's too subtle for a lot of people. Do I think he's the greatest actor of his generation? No. But he's also not as bad as people make him out to be.
emmyaward From: emmyaward Date: May 23rd, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't like Elizabethtown the first time I saw it mainly because I'd been expecting more, and because I thought that Kirsten Dunst's character was too Penny Lane and that the whole concept was very Garden State. However, I watched it again recently and enjoyed it quite a lot more, because Orlando really is great to watch in this film. And it is so much better than the traditional rom-coms, with so much more depth and actual real humour.

I think one of the main reasons people perceive Orlando's acting as wooden is because Legolas - his first movie role - was not a character with any sort of depth at all, and not much to do except looking pretty and shooting arrows. I would have dimissed him as an actor completely had I not seen him in this British indie film called The Calcium Kid, in which he was hilarious and proved he had more than two facial expressions :). I had so much love for that film.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: May 23rd, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
the whole concept was very Garden State

I so agree with that. I sort of think of Elizabethtown as a Hollywood version of Garden State.
emmyaward From: emmyaward Date: May 23rd, 2007 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a bit in love with Orlando Bloom, which I once said - in year 10 when everyone was obsessed with Legolas and I just didn't understand why - would never happen. But he was fabulously good in Extras, easily as good as Kate Winslet, and I really liked him in both Elizabethtown and PotC.

I think Orlando does a great job as Will. I loved him from the start; he's sweet, he's earnest, he stands up & fights for what he believes in, and he'll clearly do anything for Elizabeth. Obviously he's still the straight man to Jack, but Will has his comical moments - Bloom (contrary to popular opinion) does have some great facial expressions at times throughout the first two movies.

I don't think that you can say that Will has no personality or development. Like you and others have said, there's a lot going on with him and it may not all be bright & colourful like Jack but it's there. Honestly, I think that was what I loved so much about this film to begin with, that the setting and events had an outlandish feel to them but that the characters, when all is said and done, had depth and substance and tended to mostly steer clear of melodrama and crap heroics. There's no definite black-and-white with the characters, at least in the first one, and I liked every single one of them, because I perceived that they all had some kind of substance and development. (DMC is similar, though I must admit that I didn't really care at all about Davey Jones and was very much All About Norrington, who I thought got some smashing character development, along with some very hot scruffiness.)

To conclude: Will is awesome, and so much better than Jack.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 23rd, 2007 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I remember hearing that, in the old comedy teams, the straight man used to get higher pay than the comic. His job was actually considered harder. After all, this is the person who has to maintain our sympathy while we're enjoying the jokes he either doesn't get or that he never sees coming.

I can understand the idea that villains are more interesting for actors to play but, at least as someone who likes to write, I don't see it that way. I think it's interesting to write someone when you don't know what he or she will do when faced with a problem. I think there's a misperception that good guys never face that kind of dilemma. I think there's also a tendency to define them in terms of won't they aren't or won't do. If you define a good guy as "never thinks a bad thought," then all you've said is what the character isn't doing, you haven't said anything about what he does.

Ellen
thornyrose42 From: thornyrose42 Date: May 23rd, 2007 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
What I find amusing in a sad sort of way is that in the TV advert for the next movie there is one frame which contains the back of Will's head (with the focus on Elizabeth) and that is it for Will, seriously you'd miss it if you blinked.

I feel that the Trio that the next film will focus on is going to be Elizabeth, Jack and Barbossa, rather than Will. Which is sad really, as i prefer Will to Elizabeth, especially Elizabeth in the second film who is getting a little too much like Super!Hermione for my taste.
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: May 23rd, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
::Unless, of course, you happen to be a movie critic who prefers theatrical gesture to character substance, in which case, maybe they should put in little bubbles, like VH1 used to, explaining what lines mean about each character's motivation.::

That would be excellent. :D
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 23rd, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Honestly, if I were an action director, I would be SORELY tempted...
ladylothwen From: ladylothwen Date: May 23rd, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't seen the second one so I can comment on that, but the first movie I liked a whole lot more than Jack. While Jack amused me with his antics Will was more a real person. That's what makes him much more intersting to me, if I can connect on a more personal level with a character it makes me feel for them more.
Luke Skywalker is a prefect example the farm boy from the middle of nowhere who became the hero.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 24th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Fern have you seen movie 3? if you are as unhappy with it as i am are you going to write a fixit fanfic? i'd love to read that
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Haven't seen it yet.
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cataglottisme From: cataglottisme Date: July 4th, 2007 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice post, really.
I like Will, a lot. Maybe because he has the most plausible characterization, in the three movies. Or maybe just because I always had a soft spot for healthy vegetables X3.
And actually, I think that Will Turner allowed me to warm up to Bloom.
He's not a dazzingly great actor, but he's really good for a character like Will. And darn, the lad's got an expressive face, when he wants to. (I'm tinking of times like the afternath of the fight in th blacksmith shop, when Mr Brown, after clubbing Jack, gets the honours from Norrington. Will's "yeah. Whatever" face is really fitting.)
Anyway, yay for vegetables!
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