Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

by Stephanie Wien, staff writer
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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End – DVD Review

DVD Features

  • DVD release date: December 4, 2007
  • Original Theatrical Release: May 25, 2007
  • Running Time: 169 minutes
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen – enhanced for 16x9 televisions
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
  • Spanish Language Track
  • Subtitles: English and Spanish
  • MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.
  • Suggested retail price: $34.99 (2-disc); $35.99 (Blu-ray); $29.99 (single disc)

Goodies

  • Bloopers of the Caribbean
  • Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom
  • Keith & the Captain
  • Tale of the Many Jacks
  • Hoist the Colours
  • Masters of Design
  • Inside the Brethren Court
  • The World of Chow Yun-Fat
  • The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer
  • Deleted scenes with optional commentary from director Gore Verbinski
  • Enter the Maelstrom (Blu-ray DVD only)

DVD rating system

  • Audio: 5
  • Video: 5
  • Goodies: 4
  • Interface: 4
  • Value: 4

The Movie

As a fan of the first two Pirates films, I fully intended to go see the third installment in the theater. It was another in the line of big summer blockbusters and ultimately grossed more than $300 million, but the mixed reviews it received, along with the almost three-hour running time caused me to be less motivated to rush out and see it right away. Ultimately I waited too long and the movie was out of the big theaters and replaced by the next popcorn flick, so my initial viewing wasn't until I popped this disc into my DVD player.

At the start of the third film, the pirates are being persecuted by the East India Company, which has control of Davy Jones' ship because the company has his heart. Captain Jack Sparrow is still trapped in Davy Jones' locker, and Captain Barbossa, Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner are all trying to get the band back together to go rescue Jack, all with own secret agendas for doing so. All the characters from the second film reappear along with the addition of some new pirates, who must all assemble as the Brethren Court in order to free the goddess Calypso. Confused yet? You may be, especially if you haven't seen the second film.

I thought the convoluted storylines and references to previous films were a bit hard to follow, and I find that I agree with a lot of what Alex Stroup said in his screen review of the film. The movie could have used a good edit, or even division into two separate movies. On the bright side, as Alex said in his review, this film is ideal for DVD viewing. You can pause it, take a break and return later, or even skip over whole sections of the movie if you want.

The Goodies

As with any special effects picture worth its salt, the two-disc DVD edition of At World's End is packed with behind-the-scenes features, beginning on the blooper reel. Given the extensive amount fight choreography in this film, you would expect there to be some entertaining bloopers—in this case, it doesn't disappoint, with a little bit of everything, including flubbed lines, pratfalls, and prop failures. I enjoyed it enough to watch a second time.

The most extensive bonus feature on the second disc is "Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom," which provides a detailed look at the climactic battle scene. We get a look inside the massive warehouse where the physical set was built, including giant gimbals that were used to simulate movement of the ships during battle. The featurette continues on from the filming to details on how the post-production was done to create seamless transitions between the filmed sequences and computer-generated effects. "Anatomy of a Scene" is an FX geek's dream. Although I didn't view it, the Blu-ray Disc version includes an even more detailed look behind this sequence with a one-hour interactive tour hosted by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, entitled "Enter the Maelstrom."

If you're a fan of Hans Zimmer, you'll be happy to know that you get two bonus features highlighting the music of the film. "The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer" includes an interview with the composer, who details his work on the Pirates trilogy, while "Hoist the Colours" goes into detail regarding the origins of the pirate song from the opening sequence of the movie, including the collaboration between Zimmer and director Gore Verbinski. For you Mac fans, there's a nice plug for iChat in the latter.

"Keith and the Captain" includes interviews with Keith Richards as well as Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer. Depp talks about how Richards was the inspiration for his character, and what it was like to work with him on set. I didn't find this segment all that memorable, but fans of Keith Richards will enjoy the extra screen time given to Captain Teague.

Fans of Captain Jack Sparrow will enjoy the "Tale of Many Jacks" featurette, which provides an in-depth look into the filming of the Davy Jones' Locker desert sequence. Just how did they get all those Jacks? You'll find out. The many actors playing Jack doubles all sitting next to one another between takes amused me. I wonder if any of them ended up at Disneyland playing Captain Jack Sparrow?

"The World of Chow Yun-Fat" is another featurette focused on one particular character, Sao Feng, and the actor who plays him. I found the scenes about fight choreography to be fairly interesting, if all too brief. Too bad they didn't spend more time on Sao during the movie.

The deleted scenes only include two sequences that were removed from the final cut, one featuring Pintel and Ragetti and the other featuring the two captains, Barbossa and Jack. It's a shame the Barbossa-Jack sequence wasn't saved for the final cut. The film could have used more amusing moments like this one and less of the extraneous mythology.

One of my favorite extras is the section titled "Masters of Design." This extra actually contains five separate featurettes that focus on those who aren't usually in the spotlight. Jim Byrkit was the mind behind Sao Feng's map that directed the pirates to the land of the dead and back again. He even included some of his own blood on the prop to add authenticity! Chris McCreary created the look of the Flying Dutchmen's cursed crew, including Davy Jones. Rick Heinrichs created the look of the Singapore set. I particularly enjoyed the walk-through that Rick gives the viewer, focusing on many of the details that are missed during the frenetic action sequences; these details highlight the focus on creating an immersive environment for the actors as well as the viewer. Penny Rose is the costumer behind the look of Keith Richards' character, Captain Teague. I can't even begin to imagine how much that costume cost to make considering the amount of vintage fabric that they used. Finally, Chris Peck created the Pirate Code book, which ended up being too authentic—it weighed too much for the actors to carry!

The featurette "Inside the Brethren Court" includes its own special interface—the bowl containing the nine pieces of eight from the Brethren Court. The viewer moves the cursor around to the different objects and when selected, plays a "documentary" talking about each pirate lord. I was amused by this bit of faux-history and appreciated getting more background on the different pirate lords who weren't more fleshed out in the actual film.

Video, Audio, and Interface

The video transfer for the two-disc special edition was excellent, and what you would expect for a modern special-effects film like this one. The audio was also excellent, although when viewing this film without a surround sound system, I found that some of the dialogue was hard to hear at times over the music and other sound effects. It might take some tinkering with settings to get the balance right on your own system. The user interface cleverly integrates scenes from the film, mainly focusing around the Davy Jones' Locker hallucination sequences. If you wait long enough, the menus are animated, sometimes with amusing effect. The Blu-ray Disc version includes a Jolly Roger pirate host.

The Final Evaluation

Although not the best movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End does have some very impressive, detailed action sequences that lend themselves to multiple viewings on DVD. No doubt those people who already have the first two films will want to pick this one up to complete their collection, but there's enough interesting additional material to make it a worthwhile purchase for others as well. One other bonus of the DVD: for those who left the theater before the final credits had rolled, you missed the film's coda. If you have the DVD, you'll be able to fast forward through those credits to see the end as opposed to those of us who waited and were trampled by the other people sprinting for the exit because they had drunk a 40-ounce soda while sitting through a three-hour movie. At the very least, you can rent the DVD and then nitpick all of the goofs that are listed on IMDB (link).

Warning

If you are considering buying this as a gift for a young pirate enthusiast, note that the film is very violent and includes many deaths. Parents are strongly cautioned to heed the PG-13 rating.