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John Silver

Species: Ursid
Premiered in:
Treasure Planet (2002)
Voiced By: Brian Murray

It is only when I began the search for appropriate images for this particular “villain” that I realized the strange trend which prevailed in the final leg of the Post-Renaissance era of Disney animated films. This trend is the involvement of they who are, at best, antagonistic towards the heroes of the tale but are not wholly evil in the strictest sense of the word. Take a look at Kron and Gantu for example. They were both doing what they thought was the right thing to do though their methods weren’t of that same distinction. With this thought in mind, I’m afraid that I’ll have to skip the film Brother Bear entirely as the main antagonist is not in any way, shape, or form a villain but that’s neither here nor there, let’s move on to the “villain” for this review shall we?

Whether you’ve read the book Treasure Island, seen the Muppets attempt at it, or just watched the animated film Treasure Planet, the one constant thing about the pirate known as John Silver is that he grows to become a father figure to the story’s hero, Jim Hawkins. Yet it is only in this particular film that we see that Silver feels the same for Jim, caring for him like he was the son he never had though these feelings get buried as he draws near to the treasure of a thousand worlds that is Treasure Planet itself. What makes this particular incarnation of Silver an even more interesting character is the fact that he is a cyborg rather than a man missing a leg.

While I have no doubt that a pirate captain the likes of Silver could command the respect and fear of his crew in the original setting, something more was needed for him in this science fiction re-imagining of the classic tale. While his arm is plenty cool in its vast array of tools and functions —I mean seriously that cooking scene alone was nothing more than blatant showing off on the ol’ pirate’s part— that scene where his robotic eye turns red as he glares warningly at his “lieutenant” Scroop was spine trembling!

Speaking of Scroop, while it is true that he is considered as the true antagonist of the film, particularly because of his many attempts at killing Jim prior to and following the takeover of the ship, but I feel that Scroop was nothing more than a second fiddle to Silver. True, he is far more terrifying in appearance and did kill Mr. Arrow but Scroop obeyed Silver’s orders from beginning to end. As to the rest of Silver’s crew… despite the myriad of alien life, there were the atypical pirates through and through though I do give credit to Amelia in that she didn’t feel it necessary to crack down on Doctor Doppler and ask him just what in the name of the Enterprise he was thinking when hiring such a crew. I mean really, I’m not one to judge a character based on their appearance but there wasn’t a single member of Silver’s crew that didn’t scream “PIRATE!” in my head.

Silver ultimately finds the treasure of a thousand worlds but in the process activates the booby trap Captain Flint had set up to cause the entirety of Treasure Planet to self-destruct. Given the choice between salvaging at least a portion of the treasure and saving Jim, he chose the boy he had come to see as a son and together, the two of them managed to use the dying Treasure Planet’s gateway one last time to escape back.

While I can understand why Treasure Planet wasn’t well received by most audiences, it did take a mighty sharp turn down the highway of science fiction after all, I can’t help but enjoy it regardless. Like Atlantis: The Lost Empire or even The Black Cauldron, this is a film that stands out amongst its peers and rather than embrace that difference, it is all but buried into obscurity. While not amongst my top three, Treasure Planet does earn a place in my personal top ten favorite Disney animated films for its imaginative retelling of a classic story but for make an alien cyborg pirate be both a fatherly figure and a total boss.

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