Portrayed by: Orlando Bloom
Films: Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise
When discussing Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, Will Turner may not be considered the most memorable character for some. At first glance, he may just seem like your typical hero, but a closer look reveals the fateful story of a young blacksmith’s apprentice becoming his own man in the world of piracy.
Will Turner is more than just a skilled swordsman and his iconic marriage during a massive battle around a maelstrom. More than any other character in the series, Will’s narrative is one of self-discovery. Throughout the films, we witness his courage and unyielding loyalty as well as his tremendous heart for the people he loves. However, we also see a man who redefines his meaning of what is right and wrong and what is truly important.
Will Turner, The Motivating Force
One of the essential components to understanding Will Turner’s character is that his decisions are motivated by helping the people he loves, so much so that during his tenure in Davy Jones’ locker, Jack Sparrow uses that motivation to determine the logical reality of Will and co’s rescue attempt. His actions are dictated by the desire to protect and aid those he holds dear, chiefly Elizabeth Swann and his father, as well as his fellow pirates.
Jack Sparrow: William, tell me something. Have you come because you need my help to save a certain distressing damsel? Or rather, damsel in distress? Either one.
Will Turner: No.
Jack Sparrow: Well then you wouldn’t be here, would you? So you can’t be here. Q.E.D., you’re not really here!
In the first movie, we see Will eschew his long-standing and seemingly concrete opinion of piracy to do whatever is necessary to save Elizabeth from Barbossa and his crew, whether it’s breaking Captain Jack Sparrow from prison and betraying him later on or making deals with Barbossa to guarantee Elizabeth’s freedom.
In Dead Man’s Chest, Will initially sets out searching for Jack in exchange for Will’s and Elizabeth’s freedom after their arrest by Lord Cutler Beckett. Jack, aware that Will would do anything for Elizabeth (and that Will would likely succeed in the task, given the motivation), uses this fact to easily convince Will to steal Davy Jones’ key to his chest. This results in Will’s capture by The Flying Dutchman, where he meets his father, Bootstrap Bill, and learns of his fate aboard the Dutchman. Will’s promise to free his father becomes the driving force for Will to find Davy Jones’ chest and stab his heart for the rest of the trilogy.
It’s not hard to believe that a man like Will would be as dedicated and loyal to the ones he considers close. As we see in the opening scene, Will would grow up without an adult figure or any family during his time in Port Royal. As children, he would grow close with Elizabeth Swann and eventually fall in love with her in their adult lives. It would make sense that the man who has seemingly lost everything as a child would do anything he can to prevent the loss of the brightest thing in his life, even if at that time his feelings were hidden. After ending the curse of the Cortes’ gold, Will had to live with the belief that he had killed his father, unaware that Bill had bartered his soul to the Dutchman. Unsurprisingly, Will seizes the opportunity and utilizes any means necessary to save his father for fear of losing him again.
Anti-Piracy, Propriety, and Morality
Of all the characters in the franchise, we see the most development in Will’s arc, particularly during the events of The Curse of the Black Pearl. When we meet Will Turner as a young man, Will appears to be an upstanding subject. In his life at Port Royal, we see an accomplished blacksmith’s apprentice demonstrating great skill in his craft and dueling. Although his master is a drunk who takes all the credit, Will remains dedicated to his work and practice. However, we also learn that he is a man that is acutely aware of his place in society. Despite his apparent feelings for Elizabeth, he understands that he is from inferior circumstances and that a blacksmith’s apprentice is beneath her.
During his first encounter with Jack Sparrow, we learn that Will despises piracy and can hold his own in a swordfight. Due to his dislike of pirates and Jack’s earlier run-in with Elizabeth, Will engages Jack into a duel and visibly exhibits greater skill in a sword. As they duel, Will maintains honor, engages in a fair fight, and only loses to Jack because Jack cheats. Even with Jack’s pistol aimed at his head, Will refuses to move, stating, “I cannot just stand aside and let you escape.” Will also displays outstanding courage during the invasion of Port Royal by Barbossa’s crew, immediately arming himself and engaging against the crew members and protecting the townspeople.
However, Will’s interactions with Jack Sparrow, the reveal of his pirate lineage, and the events of the first film reshape Will’s view on what is right and what is wrong. He realizes that it’s a person’s actions that indicate who they truly are and not what society thinks they are. At great risk to his own life, Will saves Jack from hanging, proudly declaring that Jack is “a good man” despite his criminal history. Will would then go on to join a life of piracy alongside Elizabeth and bravely fight for their freedom against Cutler Beckett and the East India Trading Co.
The Innate Skills of a Pirate
Unlike Jack, who loves to make a noise and utilize dramatic flair, Will Turner is quiet, quick-thinking, and a strategist. He participates in a game of liar’s dice aboard the Dutchman as a method to obtain the location of the chest’s key, correctly determines that Davy Jones was in love with Calypso, uses dead bodies to leave a trail for Beckett. Although initially having little experience with the sea, Will rapidly learns the ways of nautical life and settles into his role as a crew member. He also begins to understand the pirate way of dealing–look out for your own interests first–and eventually embraces sea life and starts negotiating his own deals for his benefit.
Will’s acute observance and his ability to briskly absorb information during commotion allow him to help his fellow pirates in tricky situations. He (along with Elizabeth) took the lead in the Interceptor’s battle against the Black Pearl, and he was able to formulate the crew’s escape from Isla de Pelegostos. Will also began commanding the crew during the waterfall’s descent at World’s End. Impressively, Will was able to assess the Kraken’s attack plan upon the merchant ship and uses it to his tactical advantage when the Kraken is unleashed against the Black Pearl, injuring Davy Jones’ pet and buying the crew time to escape.
Will Turner is dashing, heroic, a protector, and a pirate. He is loyal to those on his side and braver than most. He’s a man that puts the happiness of the woman he loves first, and he is a man that deserves the ultimate happy ending more than most.