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Walt Disney Home Video presents
"Life is cruel. Why should the afterlife be any different?"
DVD ReviewThe first Pirates of the Caribbean had to withstand and overcome the questionably threadbare concept of turning a classic theme park attraction into a feature film, something that just had "horrible, horrible mistake" written all over it. But director Gore Verbinski (The Ring) did it up right—seemingly far better than most folks could imagine—pulling another wonderfully trippy performance out of Johnny Depp as the fey, swaggering pirate Jack Sparrow and loading on all of those groovy skeleton effects into something that fellow dOc'er Kevin Clemons called "a rollicking, funny, and all together magnificent display of roller-coaster entertainment". Couldn't have said it better myself.
The success of the first film was clearly enough to warrant the production of a pair of sequels, and just like the apprehension of the original concept, the fear of a bad case of sequel-itis was to be expected. But with Verbinski onboard (as well as original screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio), and all of the onscreen principals returning, the only problem was a way to come up with a new story and to have something for them all to do.
How do you top those skeleton pirates? How about a ship full of half-sea creature/half-man monstrosities, all under the control of the infamous Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a peg-legged nasty with a face full of squirming tentacles? Tack on a massively aggressive Kraken (think ridiculously giant octo/squid), the mysterious titular chest and, once again, Jack Sparrow's compass, which figures prominently, but for different reasons for different characters, including on-the-lam couple Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), as well as disgraced commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport).
Verbinski hits the two-and-a-half hour mark with this one, a feat that seems pretty brazen and ballsy for a sequel, besting the original by about a good eight minutes or so. But the time flies, in part because there is never the sense that this is just an exercise in thinly packaged "more of the same" marketing that so many sequels fall victim to. Instead Dead Man's Chest does its best to up the ante of the first film with a number of broad, exciting action sequences that mix comedy and adventure with great effects work. There is a scene early on—let's call it Jack-ka-bob for reasons that will be clear if you've seen it—in which Depp's eye-linered pirate has to escape certain death from a tribe of cannibals, and involves a frenzied jungle chase that layers on the slapstick and fits in just as well as something as ominous as the big action-packed canon-to-canon sea battle.
There's a third chapter due in theaters in 2007, and screenwriters Elliott and Rossio have penned Dead Man's Chest so that it is satisfying as its own adventure (even as a sequel), but also so it trggers anticipation for the next one with a couple of twists in the final act. But until then, this one holds up just as strongly alongside the spirited merriment and visual spectacle of the original without seeming like an example of hollow, soul-less marketing (attention George Lucas). That's a rough task, one made even more of a challenge considering this is a film series based on a theme park attraction.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+
Image Transfer Review: It's tough to come up with any complaints on the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, so I'll keep it simple. This one's a beaut, with an abundance of vibrant colors and rock-solid black levels throughout, with no evidence of halos or edge enhancement.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is certainly not a shy one, and is a properly aggressive track that one would expect for a big-budget adventure like this one; the mix is in constant motion, with rears in play nearly nonstop, from small discrete background sounds to more frantic noise during the action scenes. The presentation is rich and very, very active, as dialogue is balanced cleanly against Hans Zimmer's jaunty score. Likewise, a very deep .LFE track is put to good use from the get-go, and only adds to the action, especially during the Kraken attack.
French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks are also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: A+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring Invincible, The Guardian, Peter Pan: Platinum Edition, Ratatouille, Meet The Robinsons, The Chronicles of Narnia: 4-Disc Extended Edition, Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks, Blu-Ray
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Extras Review: This two-disc special edition (a single disc version is also available) sports a neat looking holographic slipcover, with slightly raised text for the film's title scroll. Included inside is a foldout insert with a site map for the all of the extras and brief descriptions of a few of them. There's also a tiny booklet with a couple of coupons (popcorn and pizza bread) and ads for various Disney/Pirates-related merchandise.
Disc 1 carries the feature—cut into 28 chapters with optional subtitles in English, French, or Spanish—as well as the usual load of trailers that Disney frontloads on their releases. Bloopers of the Caribbean (03m:51s) is your standard issue flubbed lines collection, the best of which features Jonathan Pryce's inability to read his own handwriting. A commentary track from screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio is a bit on the dry side in terms of presentation (Rossio has his very best NPR delivery on tap here) but their discussion is interesting from a technical aspect, with how writers assemble and segue scenes, as well as the accidental luck of reworking key plot points—such as the way the compass really works—that weren't fully explored in the first film.
The rest of extras are on the second disc, beginning with Charting the Return (25m:40s), a overview of this film's origins, or the "what do we do?" approach according to director Gore Verbinski, with things covered running the usual gamut of topics (casting, locations, script) and a revealing look at the construction of the Black Pearl. According to Plan (01h:02m:59s) is the meatiest of the lot, a leisurely exploration of the elaborate production, from the troubled Bahamas locale (one word: hurricane) to the sheer massive logistics.
Captain Jack From Head To Toe (27m:34s) allows viewers to click on various parts of Jack Sparrow's body to gain insight into elements such as costume design and makeup. The individual shorts run just a few minutes each, but are also viewable via the Play All option. Mastering The Blade is made of three individual segments—Orlando Bloom (05m:37s), Keira Knightley (05m:07s), Jack Davenport (05m:17s)—and examines the training required for the actors to look natural while wielding a sword, with rehearsal footage and the like.
Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend (12m:33s) is pretty fascinating stuff, and looks at the effects required to create Bill Nighy's tentacle-faced villain. Lots of talk and footage looking at the use of ILM's advanced motion capture process, with an assortment of layers to show how the final look was put together, including the accidental discovery of using coffee-stained Styrofoam as the basis for the squidy flesh. Ditto on the "pretty fascinating" meter is Creating The Kraken (09m:58s), which isn't necessarily a look solely at the beastie, but is another technical piece that goes into some quick explanations of destroying a ship, the various plates involved in a battle scene and a nasty goo gun.
Dead Men Tell New Tales: Reimagineering The Attraction (13m:01s) shows off how the Disney team rejiggered the ride that inspired the movie, that now has been modified (referred to here as "enhanced") to pull elements from the movie. Purists can bemoan the tweaking of a classic ride, but Disney did it exceptionally well and this piece shows all the work that went into revamping the attraction.
Fly On The Set: The Bone Cage (03m:48s) is a set of assorted behind-the-scenes clips—mostly bluescreen, with no narration—of the "swinging cage" scene, with lots of actors screaming (and occasionally puking). The Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer's Photo Diary (04m:42s) allows the producer to give some generic recollections of the production ("you have to work with great actors") and story, interspersed with behind-the-scenes-footage and a number of photos. Pirates On Main Street: The Dead Man's Chest Premiere (03m:59s) is pretty self-explanatory, and consists of screaming fans waiting for a chance to manhandle a photo or autograph of Orlando Bloom or Johnny Depp on the red carpet.
Disc 2 also has four Easter Eggs (hint: foliage) that give quick looks at the actors who play the "twin pirates" (01m:05s), the catering logistics (02m:08s), the prop painters (01m:08s) and the dangerous job of the coconut man (01m:37s).
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsThis one escapes the typical sequel curse by a longshot with a grand adventure that can be both comical and menacing, featuring a number of impressive effects and set pieces, all contained naturally within a universe of some very fun characters. The image and audio transfers are outstanding, the extras are entertaining, and the whole thing has me chomping at the bit for the next installment.
Pirates are indeed cool.
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