Plot: What’s it about?
You have to be kind of cautious when you hear that a major Hollywood movie is being developed off the idea of a ride at Disneyland. It almost sounds laughable. Then again, when Jerry Bruckheimer is behind it, you tend to think again. Maybe it’s worth seeing? True, it might have mindless action, but I’ll be entertained. Then you hear that Johnny Depp is playing the lead and that he modeled his character after a pirate, a Rastafarian and Keith Richards of all people. Suddenly you think…well, you don’t know what to think. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” sounds more like a bedtime story as opposed to one of the highest-grossing movies of the year, but don’t let the title fool you – the movie is good! Johnny Depp, widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest actors, threw himself into the role of ex-Captain Jack Sparrow and it shows. The teeth, the accent and the question to whether or not he’s…you know…a little light in the loafers are all things that made the movie so enjoyable. Let us not forget the director, Gore Verbinski, who struck gold earlier this year with one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen; “The Ring”. Couple that with the juggernaut that is Bruckheimer (who has been behind most every successful movie in the last 15 years) and you’ve got something.
Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, the once Captain of the ship, The Black Pearl. He has since been exiled and overthrown via mutiny by his crew and his arch-nemisis, Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) has taken the reigns from Sparrow. Leaving Sparrow for dead on a deserted island, Barbossa and his crew then had the unfortunate predicament of running into a curse that turned them into the undead. By day, they look and act like normal pirates (or as normal as pirates act, anyway), but by light of the moon, they are shown as they truly are; skeletons. Barbossa and his crew are in search of a cure for their somewhat unusual condition. Enter Sparrow who forms and unlikely bond with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who just happens to be in love with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who is kidnapped by the pirates. Now Will and Jack must team up to get what they want. For Jack, he wants his ship (The Black Pearl) back and Will wants the lovely Elizabeth back. It sounds easy, but with a crew that gives new meaning to the phrase “Skeleton Crew” that wants both of them dead; how in the world will all of this work out?
The movie combines a rare form of action/adventure and comedy into something that’s really very enjoyable. As Roger Ebert states “…There’s a nice little 90-minute B movie trapped inside the 143 minutes of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” a movie that charms the audience…” To say that Depp steals the show is, of course, an understatement. You can tell in most every scene that he loves what he’s doing and there’s no surprise that the Outtakes on the second disc is rather lengthy. The story is one that we know of and have heard many times before, but told and shown with new life (pardon the pun), it’s fun to see these characters try and accomplish their respective goals. There truly is something for everyone in this movie, kids might be a bit scared at some of the scenes involving the pirates as skeletons, but it’s coupled with the right amount of action and comedy that their short attention spans will switch from fright to laughter in no time. On a side note, this was the first PG-13 movie to be released under the Walt Disney label; all previous movies of this rating and higher (“higher” being “R”) have been launched under the Dimension or Touchstone label. Proving that the choice was right, Disney raked in the cash and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Depp nominated for an Academy Award for his work here. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Perfect. I don’t know what others will say, but this is how big-budget movies are supposed to look and the transfer is not only THX approved, but it lives up to that standard and might even surpass it. The anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio is faithfully re-created on the small screen and the attention to detail is the thing that stood out the most. There are many dark scenes in the movie, but equally as many lighter ones. The flesh tones don’t suffer in the least and though there are many CGI effects, they all look as if they were the real thing. I saw no evidence of artifacting and not even the slightest hint of any edge enhancement in the least. This had a very fluid, film like look to it and I really can’t say enough great things about how this looks. Disney has done it right as this transfer is flawless.
Audio: How does it sound?
As good as the picture looked, it sounded just as good too. We’re given two 5.1 soundtracks to choose from, a Dolby Digital and a DTS. I initially chose the DTS to listen to as I usually find that soundtrack to be better. Viewers won’t be disappointed as both tracks sound excellent. The front stage is very active, but what surprised me the most was the action in the surround channels. The subwoofer is very active as well. Consider the swordfight scenes (one of the movie’s downfalls, as they get a bit redundant) in which the high-pitched sounds of the swords almost literally surround you. Explosions, gunfire and about every other thing that can make a decent sound is reflected and to a great degree, through the speakers. It doesn’t happen often, but this sounds as good as it looks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disney, as expected, has capitalized on the success of the movie and has loaded it with supplements. Disc one of this set contains the film with the DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks and, count ‘em, three audio commentaries. The first track is with Director Gore Verbinski. The track is probably the most entertaining of the three and Depp and Verbinski seem to have a pretty good chemistry. If you’re going to listen to a commentary, this would be my recommendation. The second track is with Knightley and Jack Davenport who seem to deliver a fairly good commentary track, but it lacks the enthusiasm of the first. Lastly, we have the “Writers” track, which, though informative, gives more a history of the characters and how the story evolved; standard for a “writer” track, but not the most entertaining. In any case, there should be a track for every interest here. This leads us to the second disc which contains the rest of the supplements. We start off with a documentary, divided into chapters, named “An Epic at Sea – The Making of Pirates”. This essentially follows the course of the movie from writing to casting, filming and special effects. I found this a cut above the usual making of documentaries as it was pretty informative, even though the format of it was the same as so many others we’ve seen countless times before. “Below Deck – An interactive history of Pirates” is just that. There is a plethora of interactive content on these discs and we’ll get to the DVD-ROM later, but suffice it to say that if you want more out of your discs, this is one that delivers.
There are five “Fly on the Set” features which is essentially just that. The camera shows the scenes being shot (and re-shot) and we get to look at the progression from the acting to the final product. Several key scenes are included such as when Jack has a swordfight with Will and “The Cave” sequence. Also included are some diaries which are essentially home movies by the “extras” of the cast. Interviews with the stars and director are shown as is the arduous task of the daily make up ritual. Some twenty deleted scenes are shown in their entirety, these are either extended scenes of what was already in the movie or scenes that didn’t make the final cut. An explanation of each is shown in text and all are shown in a brilliant 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is anamorphic. Nice touch. There is a rather interesting segment in the “Moonlight Serenade” segment which shows how the scene was shot and then the CGI was added in after the fact to give the crew their “skeleton” look. Essentially, the actors were just used as reference points as the real stars of the show was the computer effects. From the monkey to the crew swabbing the deck, we see how it all took place and it’s amazing how far special effects have come in movies. “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” shows us the very first glimpse of “Pirates of the Caribbean” all the way back in 1968! Some photo galleries have several hundred still photos to show and the DVD-ROM content is among the most I’ve ever seen on a disc. When the disc is inserted in a computer, you can view the script, take your own photos and see what you’ll look like as a “skeleton” among other things. Disney has produced a very good double disc set here and your money is well-spent when you purchase “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”. Don’t be surprised to see a sequel in the near future.