They don’t make them like this anymore. From the production values and witty script to the booming soundtrack by Klaus Badelt, Pirates of the Caribbean is an incredible, wild ride worthy of the term “new classic.” Regardless of its flaws, this movie will sneak right into your memory and stay there.
On paper it doesn’t sound like much. In reality, it isn’t. It’s a simple tale, a basic pirate story that covers the same ground that’s been gone over before. Girl is kidnapped; incompatible heroes go to her rescue. It’s the way everything is done, with enthusiasm, flair, and style that make this movie what it is.
At the height of all of that is Johnny Depp. Jack Sparrow is an immensely likable goofball, you can’t wait for the next sequence. The entire movie is better because of him. Most of the real humor comes from his character (and the script, of course) and it keeps things rolling along during the slightly extended running time.
The action sequences (of which there are many) are done with incredible visual style. They become completely engrossing to give the movie an epic feel. Visual effects are strong, the CGI is solid, and the care taken to create it is obvious. Production values ooze out of every frame, and with the enormous entertainment value, it becomes more than a standard popcorn fest.
Giving everything a central theme is a marvelous soundtrack by the above-mentioned Badelt. His work here is stunning, drawing the audience in each time it’s used. It keeps you in your seat through the credits, too (which is important).
To say the film is overdone is a bit ridiculous. That’s its best aspect. Everything is flashy and over the top, giving it broad appeal with a sky-high fun factor. There’s a little bit of everything tossed into this adventure. You don’t see many movies in your lifetime that strive so hard simply to entertain you. That’s what this business is all about.
The edge enhancement that flawed the original DVD transfer is still evident on this Blu-ray release. However, it’s nowhere near as noticeable or as distracting. The amazing increase in sharpness and clarity make up for the edging issues. Colors breathe new life into this movie on the home format, as do the apparent minute details on the sets. Light film grain is the perfect touch on this stunning transfer.
Pirates has cannon fire. That’s all you need to know. The bass is booming every time one goes off, and the only way to experience cannons with any more impact than this PCM mix would be fire one yourself. Debris from their blasts is wonderfully immersive, and moves throughout the audio channels. Swords clash and make their crisp mark on every speaker.
A Blu-ray exclusive pop-up trivia track offers a unique interactive touch as well. Certain trivia tracks can be selected, and when the movie is over, a custom documentary will be created based on the facts you found interesting. The disc case has it labeled as a game, though there is no goal to aim for.
The other features are lifted from the two-disc DVD. There are three commentaries on disc one to start things off. Director Gore Verbinski and Depp reminisce about the shoot on the first one and the screenwriters square off in another about the challenges of actually bringing their ideas to the screen. The final one is interesting as it is scene specific and it could be Jerry Bruckheimer going solo or Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport together.
Disc 2 is where everything else is packed. Epic at Sea is the obligatory making-of feature, split into nine sections. You can watch them all or view each section individually. It covers pretty much everything, some topics more in-depth than others, though does falter into promotional territory. There are three production diaries, the best one being the diary of a pirate. It shows the make-up process and a typical day on the set.
Fly on the Set is an under-utilized feature on DVDs. It simply shows the set during a shoot, where you can listen in on the crew discussing how to shoot it, untouched dialogue, and more. There’s no commentary or music. It’s like being there on the set when it was being done. You can peek in on five scenes. A blooper reel runs for three minutes and not surprisingly, it’s entertaining.
Below Deck is one of those annoying features that require you to navigate some cheesy video menus to actually get to the features. Thankfully, you can view the content, which has historians discussing real pirates, with a separate menu selection. Nineteen deleted scenes are crammed on here, each obviously varying in length. It’s odd that during the extended scenes, the new footage is indicated by a change of aspect ratio, from the usual 2:35:1 to 1:85:1. Wouldn’t a subtitle that says “new” make more sense?
A scene progression for the reveal of what the enemy pirates really are is about as deep as you can go for a CGI featurette. It runs about six and half minutes. Pirates in the Park contains an entire episode of The Wonderful World of Disney describing how the thrill ride the movie is loosely based on came to be. That’s a great extra and the stock is surprisingly good shape considering the age.
Features on a three-disc DVD edition of the movie are also here. Two featurettes focus on the Barbosa and Sparrow characters. Thar She Blows! is a fun piece on the miniature ship and its journey from the building process to popping it with explosives. The Monkey’s Name is Jack is a piece on the monkeys used during filming.
Spirit of the Ride details the casts experiences with the Disney attraction. Dead Men Tell No Tales is a short feature on the Disneyland ride and its history. It’s more detailed and makes the Wonderful World of Disney piece pointless. Numerous still galleries finish things off.