Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly
Extras: Commentary Track, Games & Activities, Movie Showcase, Backstage, Bloopers

Being a fan of the first DVD release of "Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl", I have somehow avoided watching its sequel, "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" up until now. All of the hype of its original release and the fact that it had the highest all-time opening weekend profits (until "Spiderman 3" recently kicked it out of that spot) ever in history may have been the reason for my avoidance, or maybe it was some of the negative reviews I read. Either way, I was quite excited to receive both Pirates movies in the mail this week. And as we also know this is the opening weekend for the third installment of Disney's pirate movie franchise. I must say it is a very smart move by Disney to release both of these films on 2-disc Blu-ray editions the same week of the opening. I am very impressed with the packaging for both sets, the slipcovers are very handsome.

Our movie begins a short time after the first one ended. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann's (Keira Knightley) wedding is cut short when they are arrested and sentenced to death by Lord Beckett of the East India Trading Company for assisting in the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Lord Beckett shows his true intentions for the arrest when he offers a pardon to Will Turner and his future wife and if he can bring back Captain Jack's compass, and so he sets sail to find the Captain. Captain Jack has just returned to his beloved ship, The Black Pearl, just after escaping an unknown peril with a picture of a key; one which he must find in order to escape his fate, based on a debt he owes to Davy Jones. Although we see many characters from the original movie, along the way we meet new characters, including a voodoo priestess of some sort, Tia Dalma, Davy Jones, complete with tentacle beard, the Kraken, an underwater monster sent to do the bidding of Davy Jones, and even the legendary ship, The Flying Dutchman.

On the positive side, we are in the middle sequel of the three. You have already been introduced to the characters in the first movie, so this movie jumps straight into all of the pirate goodness that we have all been craving since the first. We are reintroduced to the seemingly permanently intoxicated Captain Jack, (Johnny Depp again does his mixed persona of Keith Richards and Hunter S. Thompson via Buster Keaton), aboard his ship with his crew, ready to set sail in search of a key. This movie also appears to be darker than the first, considering we witness, within the first five minutes, a crow plucking out the eyeballs of a dead prisoner and a crow being blown into a flurry of feathers by a shotgun. This type of violence is more than you would expect from a Disney release. This is Disney for the 21st Century. This style, combined with the extreme personality and charisma of Depp's character, make these films some of the most subversive cinema put out by Disney. It is also a bit absurd in parts, the over-the-top theatrics were so overwrought and ridiculous in some scenes, like when Captain Jack ends up as a human shish kabob from cannibals throwing fruits & vegetables at him while he's tied to a pole. It sometimes goes more than a little over the top, but that can also be part of the fun. These moments took up what was a subtle comedic performance and took it to an unnecessary extreme. That said, it is still a fun and exciting adventure. In fact, there is much fun to be had if you can let go and just enjoy the ride. Not me, though.

From the opening water ripples, we realize that this transfer is of the same caliber as the first Pirates movie, and some parts actually look better, if you can believe it. The ripples in the water and the leaves on the island look 3-dimensional. Every little detail, miles in the background, is visible. Your jaw will drop to the floor in amazement, yet again. Davy Jones may be one of the most amazing digital characters since Gollum or Jar Jar Binks, he rides the middle line of being just as annoying as both, if not more so. Either way, his character looks so crystal clear and realistic, you will simply not believe your eyes! The people at Industrial Light and Magic have outdone themselves this time. I didn't see any edge enhancement or even the slightest shimmer, even in the fast action scenes. All of the things you may have been reading about this transfer are completely true, it is an experience you won't believe. The colors are so vibrant and the picture is so sharp, you can see every crack in the bricks of the castles and every grain pattern on the wooden ships and the old fashioned glass is simply amazing to look at. And the costumes have a texture and dimensional quality the likes of which I have simply never seen before, this is one eye opening experience to say the least, it is completely mind blowing. What is really impressive is that you can see where all the money went in this super-expensive production and using 50 GB seems to be the perfect way to do so. Blu-ray has really set the bar quite high with these releases, and it may be awhile before anyone approaches this level of quality.

Acoustically, we have an outstanding PCM Uncompressed track that really delivers the goods, as you may have expected. The sound field is always very wide and the dynamic range is very well rendered. This movie has so many explosions and splashes and cannon fire, it keeps the surround speakers constantly working, not to mention the huge workout your subwoofer will get when the Kraken attacks. And let's not forget the wonderful score by Hans Zimmer which compliments not just the action, but the scenes of humor and drama as well. Not only will you want this as a visual demo disc, but it has everything you could possibly want in the way of sound. Sound wise, this film will amaze and astound, it is a sonic masterpiece in every way.

There are a ton of special features on this 2-disc edition. On the first disc we have an interactive game called Liar's Dice, where you can play the same dice game as is played by Davy Jones' crew. We also have Movie Showcase, where you can jump straight into a scene you would use to show off your system. And finally the audio commentary with Screen Writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. On the second disc there are over 15 featurettes, including a Producer's Photo Diary by Jerry Bruckheimer and one of the premiere. There are also stills, bloopers, theatrical trailers from around the world in English, French, Portuguese and German, and teaser trailers in English, Spanish, Italian and German. It appears that all of the special features 2-Disc DVD were ported over as well as the features from the Best Buy exclusive bonus disc. All of these features are in 480p standard definition, but it is definitely impressive that they went all the way and included all the features from previous DVD incarnations.
Ultimately, the most serious failure of this movie is that it tries a little too hard to please too many people all at once. What we're left with is a very beautiful and expensive mess, with an overdependence on computer animation and a sense of humor carried over from the first movie, but taken to an extreme that ultimately loses its core fan base. I just want to go on record as confessing that I actually like the Star Wars prequels, so I am not one of those who goes around insulting all things digital. This particular movie feels like the most expensive "I Love Lucy" episode ever filmed and at its worst it jumps around too much. It moves from one exotic local to another, we glimpse expensive set design after expensive set design. And while the production values are extremely impressive in 1080p, we are just thrown into a chaotic mixture of humor, violence and awkward jokes. If it's guilty of anything, it is that overkill, of meeting our expectations to the nth degree. While the image and sound quality may be some of the most amazing ever seen on home theater so far, it doesn't change the fact that it suffers from sequelitis far more even than "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Jurassic Park: The Lost World", two movies that suffered the same fate. However, something was right, because of the substantial amount of money that this film did and still does generate. Of course, there was a backlash by critics and a large portion of the audience who went to see it. Of course, don't get me wrong, this movie is a mixed bag. And it does have some truly amazing special effects. And some of the action sequences are very exciting, there are just so many of them. Gore Verbinski has thrown a little of everything into this and it has so many twists and turns your head will be spinning. It is the ultimate popcorn movie. It is almost impossible to give a bad review to a film with Johnny Depp's wonderful and hilariously over the top performance as Jack Sparrow. Still, I just couldn't wait for it to end. I was ultimately disappointed, and maybe just a tad bit sea sick.