Masterful commanders

Special to The Times

Here's a tale of two Captain Jacks: One is the master and commander of all he surveys, the other is a down and dirty pirate on the make. Yet Capt. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe, of the recently opened "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World") and Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, of the summer blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl") have more in common than just the colon in their movie titles.

Both have the sea in their blood and the love of a good ship in their hearts. Both oversee hearty crews who love their grog. They share a brilliance for seafaring as well as a positively goofy sense of humor. Each engages in some nifty swordplay, and each must face the impact of sun and sea on long hair (oh, the humidity!).

Hard to say with certainty who'd win in a sea battle, but a fight between the two Jacks would surely make for entertaining viewing. See the handy chart below to compare and contrast further. On the SS Hollywood, there is always room for two captains.


Aubrey: Drenched in a veritable sea of period accuracy, down to the seams of his breeches. One possible exception -- the fabulous blond highlights on his pony tail don't quite read early 19th century on the open seas unless Adm. Nelson was a pioneer in that department as well. On the other hand, half of Beverly Hills will sit patiently through the credits to get the hairstylist's name.

Sparrow: An amalgam of hipster stylings bedeck the pirate captain. Goth black eyeliner, beaded and dreadlocked hair, punk beard, bandana, gangsta gold teeth. The most traditional things he wears are his earrings. The "Queer Eye" guys would have their hands full with this hygienic bad boy.

Wench appeal

Aubrey: The actor put on weight for the part, but somehow it only adds to his masculine swagger. As far as luck with the ladies goes though, the only suggestion of his appeal comes from a longing glance shared with a beautiful Brazilian woman. But duty calls. Even though he loves his wife (his beloved Sophie, to whom he writes while aboard the HMS Surprise), the toast he makes in the movie -- to our wives and our mistresses, may they never meet -- gives us the idea that this officer may not be a gentleman.

Sparrow: As lean as Aubrey is meaty. Slap on all the grime, facial hair and gold teeth you want, if the man were any prettier they'd have to change his name to Captain Jackie. All for naught, however -- his sexual magnetism is played strictly for laughs. The women line up only to slap his face. But the girls in the audience went wild.

Rallying cries

Aubrey: "For England, for home, and for the prize."

Sparrow: "On deck you scabrous dogs" -- and, of course, "Drink up me hearties, yo ho."

Sidekick and conscience to

the captain

Aubrey: The lovely and sensitive brunet ship's surgeon Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany, perhaps best known as Russell Crowe's lovely and sensitive blond imaginary best friend in "A Beautiful Mind"), the captain's best friend and verbal sparring partner.

Sparrow: The lovely and sensitive brunet blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, the lovely and sensitive blond elf Legolas in the "Lord of the Rings" movies), the captain's literal sparring partner and ultimate savior.

Source material

Aubrey: An immensely popular and acclaimed series of 20 novels by Patrick O' Brian. Great literature that transcends the nautical adventure genre. Counts David Mamet among its fans.

Sparrow: An immensely popular Disney theme park ride that transcends the scurvy-knave genre (be there a baby boomer who can't hum the theme song?). Counts my 10-year-old niece Rebecca among its fans.


Aubrey: Victory, all in the service of his beloved king, country and navy, and prideful retaliation against a French captain who has outsmarted him.

Sparrow: Freedom, which his beloved Black Pearl represents to him.

Eating and

drinking habits

Aubrey: Big eater, drinker, very fond of odd puddings (one shaped like the Galapagos Islands) and rum. Likes nothing better than hosting a nice post-battle sit-down dinner .

Sparrow: Seems to exist solely on rum.

Moral fiber

Aubrey: Embedded in his very sinews. A peerless and fearless leader, with a tender side. Ends a good day's war with a violin-cello duet with his best friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin.

Sparrow: None to speak of. As a captain, he's every inch the drunken rock star. He doesn't just chew the scenery, he adds rum and serves it up flambe. Honors the pirates' code when he feels like it (but deep down, he's the pirate with the heart of gold).

Casualties inflicted

Aubrey: Innumerable. Or at least more than Maximus the gladiator.

Sparrow: Only one -- but the guy really deserved it.

Future voyages

Aubrey: One down, 19 to go? That Titanic tank in Baja where director Peter Weir shot the movie shouldn't go to waste.

Sparrow: Set to wash ashore with "Pirates 2" in 2005. After that, the world of Disney's the limit. Perhaps another popular ride could come into play: "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of Mr. Toad."

Final score:

Aubrey: Hip hip, huzzah!

Sparrow: Argh!

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