Monday, July 10, 2006

Kingdom Hearts 2's Jack Sparrow

Today's rant is brought to you largely by the recent, terribly disappointing Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. Let it never be said that outside factors don't influence my rant topics.

So, there are a few general complaints people have with Kingdom Hearts 2 that you hear repeated very often. These usually include the following criticisms:

1. Atlantica Sucked (Myself, I found it not so terrible--at least its dumb minigames gave you the idea that you were ACCOMPLISHING something, instead of just fucking around finding honey or pretending to be Tony Hawk).
2. Aeris's Voice Acting Sucked (No arguments here--man, I thought I'd been prepared for bad voice acting by other games, but this is in its own league of awful)
3. Sephiroth Is In It (Meh, big deal, it's still not like he's hard to beat, and Nomura has such a narcissistic infatuation with his own creations, both good and godawful, that you can't really expect anything else)
4. Nomura doesn't bother to even try to understand any FF character not his own (Oops, sorry, did I stick a personal complaint into this list? Silly me)
5. Jack Sparrow Wasn't Done Right

Number 5 there I was fully willing to believe before playing the game. I mean, the character of Jack Sparrow from the original Pirates of the Caribbean is a pretty unique fellow, with enough quirks and mannerisms that he's gotta be hard for anyone to reproduce (as further proven by the terrible job that Depp himself does at trying to recreate him in the afore-mentioned sequel). So I went into KH2 with a reasonably low expectation for the PotC world's central character. So I get to the PotC world, start busting up undead pirates with my trusty cartoon friends and fucktarded Keyblade, and hang out with Cap'n Jack for a while, and come to the following realization:

I have no idea what everyone's complaining about.

The general movements and gestures for him are all spot-on. He's got the same noticeable, but not glaringly obvious sway, the same smoothly flimsy hand motions, and even the same gracefully uncoordinated way of fighting. Even when he's doing the kind of wildly unrealistic stuff that hanging out with Sora allows you to do, particularly during joint Limit Breaks, he's still the same off-kilter pirate we all know and love.

Personality-wise, he's also just about a perfect fit. He still has his own best interests in mind, while still having that ambiguously friendly personality that can convince you that, just maybe, he's also just as motivated by the urge to be a decent guy. They even kept the line that I think really best describes him and the uniquely uncertain motivations for all he does: "Have I ever given you reason not to trust me?"

What seems to inspire people most to say that he's not right is the voice acting, I've found. Which confuses me as much as their criticism of any other part of him. To be sure, he's not voiced by Johnny Depp. But while you can tell this if you really, really listen for the difference, the voice is honestly so close that I doubt I could have told the difference without knowing beforehand that it wasn't Mr. Depp doing it. It's certainly closer than quite a few other Disney character voices get in the game, but you don't really hear any complaints for them, so I'm gonna have to say it's probably mostly the deranged Depp fangirls and fanboys who take any strong notice of this difference. Overall, I think SquareEnix did a damn good job with the character of Jack Sparrow, and anyone who has a problem with him is being too picky even for me.


  1. A weird thing I find with Jack in this game is that he and everybody else talks about how untrustworthy he is, and while he does only get involved for selfish reasons, he doesn't actually do any of the backstabbing he did in the movie.

    1. Hm. Interesting point; I had not noticed that myself. I suppose my familiarity with Jack from his movie origins fills the gaps that the game leaves on that point...which makes me curious now that I know that's happening. I wonder how many other KH versions of the Disney characters might also have similar characterization holes that I and many others don't notice because our mind automatically draws from the information of the source movie? It could be like those optical illusions where you're shown an incomplete shape but your mind automatically thinks it's a whole one because it bridges the gap unconsciously. Is Jack the only character with this sort of thing, or are there others? Something to keep in mind if I ever replay the KH games, and for when I someday play KH3.

      I suppose you could argue that Will and Elizabeth might have in-world knowledge of Jack that they draw on, and/or that they and Sora (who has previously encountered Captain Hook) have personal experience with the notion that pirates as a general rule are untrustworthy, but that feels like a stretch to cover a plot hole rather than a reasonable assumption.

      Thanks for sharing your keen observation.