Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Keira Knightley
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Trivia Track, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Scene Progression, Photo Galleries and much, much more!

"Pirates Of The Caribbean" is probably Disney's most successful non-animated movie franchise and by now it is hard to imagine anyone out there hasn't seen Captain Jack Sparrow's exploits on the high seas. This has been one of the most anticipated high definition releases of recent months and let me assure you that the wait was well worth it.

When pirate captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is saving Elizabeth, the daughter (Keira Knightley) of the governor of Port Royal he sets in motion a number of events that change the lives of everyone involved. Under attack from the pirate ghost ship "Black Pearl" Port Royal soon sees its share of looting and plundering and Elizabeth is kidnapped by the marauding pirates.

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith who is secretly in love with Elizabeth convinces Jack Sparrow to help him track down the Black Pearl to rescue her when the local Navy outfit decides to sit on their hands. Entirely selfish and ruthless, Sparrow doesn't help Turner because he's such a nice guy, of course. Instead he sees something in the young man that leads him to believe he could actually be of help to himself. You see, Jack Sparrow used to be the Captain of the Black Pearl before he was marooned on an island by his own crew and for him it is time for a little payback.

Based on the classic ride in Disneyland, "Pirates Of The Caribbean" is a clever and furious mix of an epic pirate movie and a swashbuckling comedy. It has all the makings of a phenomenal pirate film – ghostly ships in the moonlight, atmospheric vistas and fog-shrouded seas, high seas battles and tall ships racing each other, a cave with the largest treasure you may have ever seen, sinister, scurvy pirates, plenty of swordfights and explosions, and the list goes on and on. At the same time it I filled with a great sense of humor, starting with Johnny Depp's remarkable portrayal of Captain Sparrow and his quirky quibs, all the way to some seriously funny situational comedy among the pirates themselves. Those familiar with the Disneyland ride will also get additional giggles out of the film as it duplicates many of the scenes on display there, in particular the Tortuga sequence and of course, the dog holding the cell keys. Don't be fooled however, "Pirates Of The Carribean" is not a pirate spoof, it is a full-blown serious pirate movie with some funny moments sprinkled in.

After some great DVD versions of the film, here is the probably most-anticipated Blu-Ray Disc to date and Buena Vista Home Entertainment is certainly dishing out the goods. To say the film looks great in high definition would be an understatement. "Pirates Of The Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl" is the best looking high definition release I have had the privilege to set my eyes on so far. I was relishing every moment of it and was constantly amazed by the visual quality of this transfer. The transfer offers up a pristine image that is devoid of any defects or speckles. Apart from the incredibly high level of detail evident throughout the most striking thing about the transfer are the colors. Blowing everything I have seen out of the water – excuse the pun – there are moments in the film where your eyes will be glued to the screen in amazement. The reds in the Navy uniforms are registering absolutely amazingly, but it is the apple that is handed around the Black Pearl – a symbol for its life-giving, tasty juiciness that the cursed pirates are deprived of – that is quickly becoming the centerpiece. Its colors are so vivid and vibrant that you get the sense you could pick the apple up and pluck it right out of the screen. Then, of course there are the blue water scenes that are without a hint of banding or noise, creating the most subtle shades of blue you have ever seen. The image is then topped of with some of the most amazing shadow detail you can bestow upon a picture with absolutely solid blacks and shadows that are still holding texture and definition like you wouldn't believe. I was constantly amazed at the visual quality of the film and its level of detail. Every seam in the clothing, even the weave in the sail cloth is visible, every little nuance in the water, every pore in the performers' skins is evident, elevating this transfer above anything I have seen.

The release greets viewers with an uncompressed 5.1 channel audio track, as well as 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in English, French and Spanish. The audio is every bit as good as you'd hope it to be. With a wide frequency response, the track has superb bass extension and very clean high ends. As a result the cannon roars will roar through your living room full-bodied and with marvelous impact at all times. The discrete surround channels are in constant use and make aggressive use of the format's capabilities. Whether it's subtle ambient noises, like the lapping of water against a ship's bow, the cawing of seagulls or the cacophony of people working and talking in the background, there is always something going on in the mix. Dialogues are very well integrated and always understandable, even during the most tumultuous moments of the film – and there are many.
Klaus Badelt's wonderful score is also captured in all its glory with soaring orchestral arrangements that add further grandeur to the picture. Its clarity and transparency is impressive to say the least, adding another highlight to an already spectacular presentation.

In this 2-disc Blu-Ray release most of the bonus features have been housed on the second disc to make sure the film itself has ample room to stretch, certainly being one of the reasons why it looks so utterly impressive. However, on the first disc you will find all the commentary tracks form the previous DVD release as well as an interactive Trivia Track that is filled with insightful information. Some of it may be a bit self-evident, but nonetheless, it is great to learn more about the film and its background as you go along. In addition to the text info, there are also background-info video segments sprinkled in that can be selected at runtime. It is all wrapped up neatly in the presentation, complete with an instructional introduction by an animated skull.

On the second disc you will find a plethora of supplements – to many really to cover each of them in detail. I found it a bit surprising that all these supplements are presented in 480p standard definition but once you begin watching them you may not even notice it all that much, because they are all very clear and clean, and using a much higher bitrate than when they were first included on DVD, they do look significantly richer and sharper than what you previously saw.

As such there are all the extras from the previous DVD release, such as the making-of featurettes "An Epic At Sea" and "Fly On The Set" both of which offer good insight into the production of the film. They are multipart featurettes that can be accessed individually to view a specific topic being covered or played in sequence. Also included are a large selection of deleted scenes, ranging from a mere few seconds to slightly longer takes. A Blooper Reel is there, as well as a historical look at pirates, the "Moonlight Serenade" scene progression, video diaries, and image galleries. Further you will see vintage Walt Disney footage on this disc as he discusses the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" ride in Disneyland, as well as a history of that ride, and so much more.

As I pointed out above, "Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl" is the single best high definition release I have seen so far. It simply doesn't get any better than this and if it weren't for the standard definition extras, this Blu-Ray disc would probably be in an entirely new league of its own that other studios would take a long time to catch up with. This disc is a landmark in terms of its visual quality and its audio presentation and will serve for us as the reference disc for all other release to be compared to. I expected great things from this release but even I wasn't prepared for this! This is simply the most awesome high definition transfer money can buy!