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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's
DVD Released: 12/4/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/29/2007
With movie franchises, it's often easy to pinpoint when a series runs out of gas. It could be during the first moment of the second film, as a sequel was completely illogical and unnecessary. It could be later on down the road when the ideas have grown stale and the characters are no longer appealing. Yet, this task isn't so simple with the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The first film had a fairly closed-ended story, so it could be argued that we didn't need any sequels. But, the second and third films definitely have their moments. However, it seems that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End may prove that the series has strayed too far of course.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End opens following the events of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (if you haven't seen that movie, I apologize, but there's no way that I can synopsize it here). Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and his East India Trading Co. have not only clamped down on anyone suspected of being a pirate, they've also enslaved Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and they are forcing him to use The Flying Dutchman to hunt down and destroy other ships. Meanwhile, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (have taken The Black Pearl to Singapore in order to find the famed pirate Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat). They need Feng's help to reach Davy Jones' Locker (some sort of limbo or afterlife) in order to save Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who was devoured by the Krakken. Once they rescue Jack, everyone has their own agenda. Barbossa wants to resume command of The Black Pearl. Jack wants to confirm that his debt to Davy Jones has been squared away. Will wants to rescue his father, "Bootstrap" Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), from The Flying Dutchman. And Elizabeth wants to see Beckett stopped. This leads to a great deal of double-crossing and back-stabbing. But, the group needs to find a way to work together, for Davy Jones and Beckett are leading an armada to wipe out all pirates once and for all.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is reportedly the final film in the series (for now) and that's a good thing as it reveals a franchise which is spinning out of control. Whereas the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was essentially a stand-alone story, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End are a two-part saga which tells an incredibly large and maze-like story. These films benefit from the fact that all of the original actors and characters appear in them, but they also veer off from what made the first movie so good.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl certainly had its share of problems (ie: length), but the movie had one thing which made it stand out: it was fun. The swashbuckling action and Depp's performance as the very odd Captain Jack Sparrow helped to make the movie a great "popcorn flick" which offered adventure and laughs. The second two films in the series lost that sense of fun, especially Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Of course, any movie which opens with the most popular character having died isn't going to be a barrel of laughs, but this film is very somber from beginning to end. Our heroes face adversity at every turn and some familiar characters meet their end. I really hate to invoke Star Wars, but didn't they learn anything from that trilogy? You make the middle one depressing and the third one should be full of hope.
And then we have the behavior of the characters. Yes, I realize that the movie is about pirates. Heck, it's right there in the title. But, the behavior of the characters has deteriorated over the course of the three films. In the first one, the pirates were "mean", but again in a fun way. The second two films introduced the notion that every character has their own agenda and they all set out to double-cross one-another...or do they. The first time that this plot device was used, it worked. The movie led us down one path and then revealed that the character had any intention of betraying their colleagues. But, in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End this pattern changes. First, the fake-out doesn't work anymore and secondly people really do get betrayed here. For me, this takes the movie out of the fun realm and makes it closer to something like The Departed. There's nothing wrong with characters going through changes during the course of a series, but when everyone is desperate and unpredictable, there's no one with which the audience can relate. And don't get me started on the fact that Sparrow goes crazy or the fact that we have to wait over 30 minutes to see him.
In all fairness, I must say that all is not gloom and doom with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. The movie does have some bright moments. Anytime that Johnny Depp is on-screen the movie comes to life and he does have some funny moments. There's no denying that the movie is technically impressive and while the final battle may go one for far too long, it does look good. But, these bright spots barely compensate that, at times, watching the movie feels like a chore as we try to keep up with the incomprehensible plot. I wouldn't mind seeing another Pirates of the Caribbean movie sometime in the future, but it needs to go back to its root of being mindless fun.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End sails over the edge of DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer here is very impressive, most likely due to the fact that the disc isn't packed with extraneous data. The image is very sharp and clear, showing very little grain and that's only in the desert sequence. The colors look great and the dark scenes are never overly so. The crisp picture doesn't reveal any notable flaws in the appearance of the special effects, and I didn't see any overt distortion or artifacting. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is very impressive. It provides clear dialogue and sound effects and the rousing music sounds great. The stereo effects are fine, but it's the surround sound and bass effects which really bring the track to life. We feel every cannon shot.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End has come to DVD in two separate
releases. There is a one-disc release and a two-disc special edition, which is
loaded with extras. Disc 1 offers only one extra, "Bloopers of the Caribbean" (5
minutes). The rest of the bonus material is found on Disc 2. "Keith and The
Captain: On Set with Johnny and the Rock Legend" (5 minutes) is an interview
with Depp and Richards, accompanied by on-set footage. I have no idea what
Richards was saying. (Thank God for subtitles.) "Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom" (20 minutes) which Bruckheimer refers to it as "the biggest action sequence ever attempted". Very detailed look at the making of the scene, which was shot inside of a giant warehouse-like building. We set the ships and how they moved, as well as the use of blue-screen and water. "The Tale of the Many Jacks" (5 minutes) looks at the scenes where there are multiple Jack Sparrows on screen, examining not only the effects, but how Depp handled it. There are two DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with optional commentary by Verbinski. Both are brief, which isn't surprising, as it's hard to believe that they cut anything out of this behemoth. "The World of Chow Yun-Fat" (4 minutes) has some comments from Fat, but they are subtitled, so we get quote from the cast and filmmakers. "The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer" (10 minutes) shows the composer at work with the orchestra, along with comments from Bruckheimer and the editors concerning his work. "Masters of Design" examines five specific crew members and their achievements; "James Byrkit: Sao Feng's Map" (6 minutes) shows how the circular puzzle map was designed and created. "Crash McCreery: The Cursed Crew" (5 minutes) profiles the creature designer and gives us a glimpse of his sketches for the crew of The Flying Dutchman. "Rick Heinrichs: Singapore" (5 minutes) illustrates the creation of the Singapore sets, including conceptual drawings of the set and footage of set construction. "Penny Rose: Teague's Costume" (4 minutes) has the designer sharing the ideas for Richard's costume. "Kris Peck: The Code Book" (5 minutes) shows the property master with the large, antique-looking book used in the film. "Hoist the Colours" (5 minutes) has Hans Zimmer explaining the creation of the song used in the film's opening. "Inside the Brethern Court" is an interactive piece which gives us backgrounds on the pirate kings.
Disney has also released Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End on a 2-disc Blu-ray Disc. The video transfer is 1080p HD AVC averaging 30 Mbps. The image looks fantastic. Simply go to Chapter 6, the scene in the desert, to see that there isn't a speck of grain on this transfer. The image has a very nice amount of depth, which really adds to the seascape shots, thus allowing us to feel the enormity of the open ocean. The colors look great and the image is very well-balanced. I didn't detect any notable video noise or distortion. The disc has a Linear PCM 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and 6.9 Mbps. The track is very clear and detailed and one can pick out individual instruments in the musical score. The stereo effects are great. Skip to the beginning of Chapter 4 to sample how nice the bass effects are here. Yet, I didn't feel enveloped by the surround sound as I did with theRatatouille Blu-ray disc.
All of the extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as the two-disc DVD, save for the addition of one more bonus on Disc 2. "Enter the Maelstrom: The Interactive Experience" is an interactive piece which thoroughly examines the creation of the film's final battle. The main piece is a time-lapse photography look at the building of the ships. This is accompanied by pop-up icons whcih can be clicked to learn more about the ships, the blue-screen, the hangar, etc.
On September 16, 2008, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy on Blu-ray Disc. This boxed set contains all three films, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, on Blu-ray. The Discs are the same 2-disc releases that were previously available, with all of the same extra features. The only difference is that all three are now housed in a nice box which, now minus the slipcovers, takes up slightly less shelf space.
Review Copyright 2007-2008 by Mike Long