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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Tuesday, December 2, 2003
The biggest live action movie of 2003 has now arrived on home video, and right in time for the holidays. However, rather than my usual rundown of the movie, let me direct you to Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix's very capable review of the movie from its theatrical premiere.
I, too, was a bit wary of the movie before it was released, but I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. While not a children's movie by far, it is a fun and humorous adventure ride on the high seas with one of the most unique and memorable portrayals of a rock star-like pirate you will ever see.
The movie wonderfully walks the fine line of both paying homage to the original theme park attraction and striking out on a new and unique direction. It is pretty amazing what you can get when you combine the character vignettes and environmental ambiance of a classic theme park attraction with writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Shrek), Producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pearl Harbor), Director Gore Verbinski (The Ring), Actors Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands), Geoffrey Rush (Shine), Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings), and Keira Knightley (Love Actually), and the special effects powerhouse, Industrial Light & Magic. It is fun, fun stuff.
Quite simply, this two-disc collector's edition is absolutely jam-packed with bonus material. As you can see from the sidebar, there is a little bit of everything and definitely enough to satisfy just about everyone.
Besides the excellent presentation of the movie, as described later, this disc features four commentary tracks. Two are full-length commentariesone by director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp, and the other by screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio and Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert. The Verbinski/Depp one is a bit quirky, as expected from Depp, and it kind of meanders around what is happening on-screen. Fortunately, there are a number of interesting stories about the production and directorial decisions, and you get a good sense of what went into the Captain Jack Sparrow character throughout the movie.
The screenwriters' commentary is quite funny and informative, as these are the folks that shaped the core of this adventure. One of the interesting aspects of this production is that the writers were on set the whole time and actively tweaking the story as the film was shot, and the commentary reflects a lot of their set-side stories and decisions behind the story changes. Both of these are well worth listening to, so be prepared to spend a lot of time in front of your screen.
Besides those two commentaries, there are two selected-scene commentaries. In the first one, stars Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport comment on 17 of their scenes throughout the movie. This one has a fun and excited tone to it, as the two reminisce about their experiences making the movie, and it comes across like a younger sister and older brother watching old home movies, as they kid around and play off of each other. Even though they only cover their specific scenes, it is still well worth listening to.
The second of these abbreviated commentaries is from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and it only covers 11 scenes. Bruckheimer very straightforwardly describes how and why he made production decisions, like selecting the actors and the director, using references to the attraction, and choosing the overall tone and feel of the movie. It is not as entertaining as the other commentaries, but it provides another unique aspect of the movie's production that helps round out the great selection of commentaries.
This second disc is where the real behind-the-scenes treasure lies. Leading off the great selection of goodies on this disc is the 38-minute documentary called, "An Epic At Sea: The Making Of Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl." This fascinating look at the making of this movie covers just about everything, including locations, production design, the ships, costumes and make-up, the stunts and sword fighting, the visual effects, and the mega-premiere at Disneyland. It is a very nice and cleanly produced overview of the whole production that is a lot of fun to watch.
The next must-see section includes no less than 19 deleted scenes. Some are rather obvious as to why they were cut, but others provide additional exposition that was not absolutely critical to the story. Altogether, there are about 19 additional minutes of film of scenes:
In addition to the cut scenes, there is about 21 minutes of "fly on the set," behind-the-camera video that simply lets you watch what happens before, during, and after a scene is shot. Five scenes, including the town attack, the blacksmith shop, and Jack's hanging, are presented, and while each section is only about four minutes, it gives you a great flavor for the movie-making experience.
I particularly enjoyed the Diaries section of the disc, which included three personal video diaries from Jerry Bruckheimer, Lee Arenberg (the pirate Pintel in the movie), and Lady Washington, the real-life ship that became the H.M.S. Interceptor in the movie. Bruckheimer briefly talks about his personal, on-the-set still photos, which are beautiful glimpses of the on- and off-stage goings-on during the shooting. Arenberg talks about the "Diary of a Pirate," and shows the working and playing sides of being a movie pirate. It is a pretty funny segment, and should not be missed.
Also well worth watching is the "Diary of a Ship" segment that shows how the crew of the Lady Washington took her from California to the Panama Canal to the Caribbean. The trials and tribulations of the trip are impressive, and after seeing this featurette, I must admit that I am glad I have a job on land.
Other cool video segments include a scene progression of the "Moonlight Serenade" segment, which includes Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) discovering the true skeletal nature of the pirates, the short blooper reel, the interactive history of pirates, and a portion of a Disney TV show from 1968. The progression featurette concisely shows how live-action footage, human reference footage, and computer generated imagery (CGI) were composited to produce this eerie and frightening scene. The short blooper reel is also pretty funny and features some of the more lighthearted moments of shooting.
The history of pirates lets you either watch a 22-minute "highlights" video or explore a pirate ship, which interactively shows the video segments. It is a nice overview of pirate history, especially if you do not know much more than what you have seen in the movies.
The final video segment worth mentioning, especially for fans of the attraction, is an 18-minute segment from the "Disneyland from Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow" episode of "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color." All of these are well worth your time, so make sure you track them down.
The last section of miscellaneous goodies I want to mention are the fairly extensive image gallery and the DVD-ROM features. The image gallery contains concept art, storyboards, costumes, production photos, and publicity art. Of particular note, this section does not include any artwork from the Disney attraction, which you might expect. However, this nicely transitions to the DVD-ROM content.
In a seemingly odd move, Disney put most of the attraction-specific material on the Microsoft Windows-only DVD-ROM content. There is a 14-minute QuickTime video called "Dead Men Tell No Tales," and it features classic artwork, archival video and interviews with a host of Imagineers and personnel involved with the original attration, including Bruce Gordon, Marty Sklar, Alice Davis, Tony Baxter, Harriet Burns, Blaine Gibson, X. Atencio, and others. I just wish Disney would have made this part of the standard DVD material, as it will probably be missed by most people.
There is also an attraction image gallery with 48 stills of character and environmental sketches, models, and more. Also related to the attraction is a virtual reality viewer that lets you view several 360-degree still photos with attraction audio. They are not the most extensive look at the attraction, but at least it is a pretty darn good start for most people.
Unrelated to the attraction features are three final Windows-only DVD-ROM goodies that you might find interesting. First, there is a software package that lets you transform a photo of yourself into a cursed pirate. It is pretty interesting, but I probably wouldn't spend a lot of time in the future playing with it.
The other two items are found on Disc One and are directly tied to the movie. There is a "Script Scanner" that scrolls an electronic version of the script on one side of the screen while the movie plays on the other half, and then there is a similar feature that does the same thing but with 200-plus storyboards. I found it more interesting to scroll through this material by myself, but it is pretty cool stuff to have. As I have already mentioned, my only wish is that this material had been put in some form on the DVD portion of the disc so more people would be able to access it, but I realize there are limitations to a standard DVD player and differences in computing platforms.
Overall, though, this bonus set is one of the best I have seen for a two-disc edition, and it rivals the best Disney Platinum and Disney/Pixar DVDs. These two discs will keep you busy well beyond a single viewing of the movie.
The Video, Audio, and Interface
As with most of Disney's recent theatrical releases, the subsequent DVD video and audio transfers are stunning. The THX-certified anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer is detailed and sharp. The bright colors are beautifully saturated, and the darks show nice shadowing and depth. Likewise, the audio is designed for theatrical surround sound, and it plays very nicely on a home Dolby Digital 5.1 system. The environmental soundstage is enveloping, and the dialogue is clear and focused through the center speaker. In addition to the Dolby soundtrack, the movie also features a DTS 5.1 soundtrack and French language track. Together, these transfers make for a top-notch home theater presentation of the movie.
As for the interface, it is relatively simple, but is perfectly themed to the movie. The menus have abundant audio from the movie's score, and there are both animated menus and transitions. The hierarchy is cleanly structured and easy to navigate. Generally, it is a nice polish to the disc, but it does not really stand out above many of Disney's other recent DVD interfaces.
The Final Evaluation
Simply add this one to your Holiday present list or pick it up on your way home from work. This set is a definite winner, and, if you enjoyed this movie at all in the theater, it will make a very nice addition to your family's home theater collection.
DVD ROM Enhanced Computer Features:
Kevin Doc Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.
You can contact Kevin here.
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