Reviewing the Kraken speech from "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was released in 2006 by Walt Disney Pictures. There have been many reviews on the Gore Verbinski film, and there is not much I can add on that subject. Instead, this is going to be a review of one specific scene, nay, one specific monologue from the film. I’m speaking of course of Davy Jones’ “Wake the Kraken” speech.
Davy Jones is introduced in this film as the terrifying new antagonist to Jack, Will, and Elizabeth. Jones roams the seas, press-ganging people into his crew in a deal-with-the-devil inspired scenario, and doom all who cross him to his locker. He’s portrayed by Bill Nighy and with computer imagery that still holds up as some of the best seen on film, looking like an unholy mix of Squidward and Long John Silver, all with Nighy’s thick accent blaring from his tentacled face.
Photo Credit: https://nerdist.com/article/ode-davy-jones-pirates-of-the-caribbean/
In the second half of the movie (SPOILERS FOR A FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD MOVIE) Will Turner escapes Jones with the help of his father. Jones, understandably miffed at losing Orlando Bloom in wet clothing as a member of his crew, decides to give chase. But not in his ship.
Forcing Will’s dad, Bootstrap Bill to watch, Jones has his men turn the capstan at the middle of the ship. The cracking of whips joins the ominous music and cranks begin turning. The center point of the capstan rises, and while it does, Jones yells out:
“Let no joyful voice be heard. Let no man look up at the sky with hope. And let this day be cursed by we who ready to wake…THE KRAKEN!””
Bill lunges forward screaming “Nooooooo!” and the capstan slams down, sending out a shockwave through the ocean.
Photo Credit: https://beforesandafters.com/2020/08/19/retro-renderman-ilms-stunning-davy-jones/
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this speech is that it does not sound like it was written for this movie. It doesn’t match Jones’ speech patterns, and is so specific as to sound rehearsed. I researched the quote, looked for references to other works. I thought, perhaps the speech comes from mythology, ancient poetry, or even a biblical source, but from what I can tell, the speech was written whole-cloth for the film.
“Let no joyful voice be heard.” The most prominent aspect of this phrase is the sentence structure. Reminiscent of older texts (i.e. “Let there be light”), using “let” as the sentence opener makes this a command, not a description or a question. Jones is issuing a command for there not to be any singing, no laughing. He’s declaring a state of terror that will cause all those who witness it to stay quiet in terror, which to an audience makes us wonder: just how bad is what he’s unleashing?
Photo Credit: https://pirates.fandom.com/wiki/Kraken
“Let no man look up at the sky with hope.” The same sentence structure as the first is used here, further establishing the terror of the Kraken. It takes it a step further though. In the first sentence, Jones calls for no outward expression of happiness of joy, but here, he declares that no one will “look up at the sky with hope.” He is literally saying that the Kraken will drive the hope from the hearts of men, and instill a cloud of despair. It’s not a scary monster, it is a nigh-indecipherable Lovecraftian monstrosity.
Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ctuT46zia0
“And let this day be cursed by we who ready to wake…THE KRAKEN!” Interestingly, there is a change in the structure here. Whereas the first two sentences are negative, expressing a denial of something, here Jones is willing something, a curse. The Kraken is being willed into action, and its very presence is a blight upon the world. Also, notice that Jones himself is not the one cursing the day. He says “…let this day be cursed…” Jones is not claiming the power of the curse. Instead he is declaring that the curse is a natural progression of unleashing such a beast.
Photo Credit: https://aminoapps.com/c/pirates-of-the-caribbean/page/blog/kraken/mokx_ELZhkuRr3YN1g3jRnLPvm8rE6zM8aX
Of course, the Kraken is the climax of the speech. It is given a suitably dramatic placement, after a slow build. The audience at this point in the story knows about the Kraken and the fear that the characters have of it. But this is the big moment, when we finally see it in action, and witness the destruction it can cause and why it is so scary. This is even further emphasized by the pause and separation from the rest of the speech. The Kraken is not being treated as an extension of Jones’ will (rest of the film notwithstanding). The Kraken is a force, a blight on the ocean. Jones is unleashing a nuclear bomb, fully aware of the fallout.
This speech is one of the best and most terrifying speeches in Disney’s filmography, or even in film in general. It establishes a foreboding and terror in a way that few things can, through use of certain writing conventions and specific dialogue, and is one of the things that truly helps to elevate the character of Davy Jones.