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Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
2-Disc Limited Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Action/Adventure Violence and Some Frightening Images)

Running Time: 169 minutes

Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Kera Knightley, Stella Skarsgård, Bill Nighy with Chow Yun-Fat, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Jonathan Pryce

Written by: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Based on characters created by: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $34.99

Features: Bloopers Of The Caribbean, Keith & The Captian: On Set With Johnny and The Rock Legend, Anatomy Of A Scene: The Malestrom, The Tale Of Many Jacks, Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Gore Verbinski, The World Of Chow Yun-Fat, The Pirate Maestro: The Music Of Hans Zimmer, Masters Of Design, Hoist The Colours, Inside The Brethren Court

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selection (28 Scenes)

Released: December 4th, 2007

 

 

The last installment of the "Pirates" franchise is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was a bit disappointed with this transfer, since the overall image quality remains on the soft side, especially in the more darker-lit scenes. The scenes at sea and on land (in more natural light) do better, but sometimes they seem a bit too bright or a bit washed out. Not helping matters is some artifacting (probably since a near 3-hour film is squeezed on a single disc), shimmering, noise and edge halos. The print used for the transfer is pretty clean, but I noticed a speck here and there. 

Even though the overall image quality is uneven, there is still a lot to enjoy. I was quite impressed with the amount of detail, especially with close-ups of the actors - the blemishes and stubble of the pirates certainly stand out. Fleshtones are pretty good too, and color saturation - being the sparkling ocean blues or the muddy browns of the pirate costumes - is pretty decent. Still, nothing exactly stands out. In all, this transfer is fine, but given the visual splendor of the movie, I was hoping for something better. 

 

Blowing the transfer out of the water (pun intended), and certainly the best part of this set), is the English 5.1 Dolby Digital track. This is an incredibly aggressive mix with fantastic dynamic range, and very discrete surrounds with plenty of imaging and panning. Fidelity is pretty high too, and subwoofer use is strong with this one. 

Given that much of this movie's soundscape is just a smorgasboard of sound effects, chances are good you'll be in heaven here. Pretty much all the surrounds are encapturing, and are just poured all over you: the ocean waves crashing, ships getting blown apart, the clinks of swords, gunshots and all sorts of merry Pirate mayhem. Even the smaller surrounds are wonderful, such as a bevy of footsteps, the wind howling and doors slamming. 

The other sound elements are flawlessly layered too: all the dialogue is very crisp and easy to hear, and Hans Zimmer's epic score oozes power from all the channels. Miraculously, everything is mixed together in harmony: not one sound element overpowers the other, and you can hear it all come together perfectly. You may not care too much for the film, but this is one 5.1 mix that will serve you well in showing off your home theater. This is reference quality, all right.

An Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also included, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.

 

This 2-disc limited edition (only on sale until September 30th, 2008!) is the weakest of the "Pirates" film on DVD as far as quantity of supplements. (I'm sure Disney is saving the additional stuff for an inevitable boxed set.) Nonetheless, there still is a decent treasure trove of extras. First off, and the only supplement on disc one, is Bloopers Of The Caribbean. This reel, lasting about 5-and-a-half minutes, is actually really funny: there are lots of line flubs, actors goofing off and stunt screw-ups. Here's something I rarely say: this is a blooper reel actually worth watching. 

Everything else is on the seecond disc. Keith & The Captian: On Set With Johnny and The Rock Legend focuses on one of the film's most talked-about scenes: rock legend Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones making a cameo as Jack Sparrow's is-he-or-isn't-he? father. Richards talks about his own inspirations as he's on set, while Depp mentions yet again that Sparrow was modeled after Richards - and that the rocker almost didn't do the film. It's not bad per se, but is rather fluffy and nothing new is revealed. 

Anatomy Of A Scene: The Malestrom is a pretty astounding featurette, lasting about 20 minutes. Through interviews with the producers, visual effects and design teams, the writers and director Gore Verbinski, you see first hand how a giant action sequence is brought to life. Needless to say, it was a lot of hard work: taking 3 months and over 600 people to build the set, followed by a lot of complicated computer effects. There's a lot of neat things to learn about in this piece, especially when it comes to the work of the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic: the placement of computer generated characters, and putting in a CGI Johnny Depp for an epic shot that then lends itself to the actual actor. A must watch for all fans of film. 

The Tale Of Many Jacks is a five minute piece looking at another special-effects ladden sequence: where dozens of Captain Jacks appear on screen (much to the delight of many teenage girls, I'm sure). It wasn't easy as it looks: despite shooting Depp a few times, there were also many Sparrow-look-a-likes on set. Oh, and there's also the building of dreadlocks. Quite interesting. 

As if the movie wasn't long enough, there were actually two Deleted Scenes, here presented with Optional Commentary by Director Gore Verbinski. The scenes barely total 2 and a half minutes, but are decent watches. Verbinski talks about the cuts, and focuses extensively on character motivation - which is pretty interesting. (Though it sounds like he's reading his comments.) 

The World Of Chow Yun-Fat focuses on the famed Chinese action star making his debut in this mega-franchise. All the actors praise Yun-Fat, and there's a focus on how Yun-Fat used his own stunt choreographer. And don't be fooled by his on-screen personas: here we learn Yun-Fat also loves hugging everybody. The actor himself also pipes up, even if it is canned PR-schtick. Still, it's nice he gets some recognition here. 

Also getting recognition is the genius composer of the movie, Hans Zimmer. The Pirate Maestro: The Music Of Hans Zimmer is a great featurette (lasting about 10 and-a-half minutes) about the man behind the music. Zimmer discusses his flurry of ideas, his inspirations and how thanks to electronic editing, he can make changes to the score with ease. There's lots of footage of him collaborating and composing, and his co-workers singing his praises. This is a lovely, in-depth and insightful look at one of cinema's most revered talents. 

Masters Of Design is a series of five featurettes focusing on what an individual crew member brings to the movie. Here, we have talented people talking about their work, and how it gets shaped and how it appears in the final movie. There are costumes, creature designs and props to be learned about here. Well-produced, and fascinating stuff overall. It always amazes me how one person's contribution can be so critical in a film, and all the effort it takes to bring the work to the screen.

Hoist The Colours is a nifty little piece about how important the Pirate chants in the movie are (as discussed by Hans Zimmer and Gore Verbinski), and finally, we have Inside The Brethren Court, which is an interactive feature where you click on certain items that gives background on the different "pieces of eight" featured in the movie. (Click below that for an easter egg, which isn't too exciting: just some computer-generated animatics done for the movie. There's also an easter egg at the end of the first menu about a very key "character" in the movie.)

Oh, and for those who were confused about some things in the trilogy (read: you, me and everyone we know), Disney has wisely put in an FAQ in the booklet.

 

"Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End" is definitely the weakest film in the trilogy, and is pretty disappointing in how it's all capped off. Still, despite the less-than-perfect transfer, this is a pretty terrific set: in-depth extras focusing on the film's massive production and the talent who made it sail, and an immersive 5.1 mix. If you own the first two films on DVD, you might as well own the last...