There are Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound options provided for this release in both English and Spanish, and both of them sound excellent. The score swells up nicely from behind during certain scenes and the action scenes make excellent use of the rear channels to spread the effects around. Dialogue stays clean and clear from start to finish and there are no problems whatsoever with hiss or distortion. Bass response is nice and strong without burying anything and the levels are all properly balanced. In short, the film sounds great.
Disney/Buena Vista have spread the supplements in this set across two discs as follows:
Aside from animated menus, previews for other Disney DVDs and chapter stops, the only supplement on the first disc is Bloopers of the Caribbean, which is an amusing outtake reel featuring some flubs made by the cast and crew while on set. There's just over five minutes of material here, and it's worth a watch even if you probably won't go back to it over and over again. Sadly, there's no commentary track for the film included.
Keith & the Captain: On Set With Johnny And The Rock Legend (4:41)- This is an interesting segment that covers the casting of Keith Richards and Johnny Depp (the later of whom admits that Richard was the primary influence when he was trying to figure out how to play Jack Sparrow). With input from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and a few other notables we learn how Keith came on board the project and how he and Depp enjoyed working together. It's pretty self congratulatory and it doesn't amount to much more than Richards fan worship but it is fun to see Richards on set in the behind the scenes footage and it's a nice tribute to the man.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom (19:31) - This is an interesting technical supplement that provides an in-depth look at the most impressive action set piece in the film. Looks for thoughts on this scene from director Gore Verbinski as well as producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Orlando Bloom. A lot of the effects technicians who helped create this scene are interviewed and this basically just shows us how the scene was created from the ground up. It's quite well done and very informative and it serves to give us a pretty serious look at the visual highlight of the film.
The Tale Of The Many Jacks - (4:48) This is, as the title implies, a look at how the multiple Captain Jacks were created for the scene in question. We hear from a few of the effects people, the costume designer, as well as Bruckheimer and Depp as this brief but interesting segment details how Depp was replicated again and again in the film through some digital effects, clever camera work and editing.
Also on the second disc are two quick deleted scenes, available with or without commentary from director Gore Verbinski who explains why they were cut out of the finished version of the film. The first scene is I Like Riddles (0:49) and the second is Two Captains, One Ship (1:30). Neither scene would have changed much in the cut of the film we see on Disc One but it's nice to see them included here.
The World of Chow Yun Fat (4:14) - This is an all too brief look at the career of the inimitable Chow Yun Fat by way of some thoughts and interview clips with the people that he worked with on this film such as Bruckheimer, Orlando Bloom and Reggie Lee as well as from Chow Yun Fat himself. It's fairly superficial and it doesn't go into a whole lot of detail but it is nice to see Chow Yun Fat given some recognition on the disc as he's one of the more memorable characters in the film.
The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer (10:31) - This segment is an interesting look at Zimmer's compositions and musical score used in the film and how he went about creating it. We get plenty of thoughts from Zimmer himself and we also hear from Bruckheimer and a few other notable crew members, all of whom sing Zimmer's praises.
Masters of Design - Here we find five documentaries (available to watch on their own or through the play all function) that detail the work that the design teams did on the production:
Jim Byrkit: Sao Feng's Map (6:18)
Crash McCreary: The Cursed Crew (5:23)
Rick Heinrichs: Singapore (5:13)
Penny Rose: Captain Teague's Costume (3:37)
Kris Peck: The Pirate Code Book
Though the titles pretty much explain what each of the five parts covers, these short documentaries focus quite specifically on their individual parts. This results in a detailed look at only a few of the more remarkable designs used in the film rather than a general look at the overall production. It's fairly interesting stuff as we learn about the various bits and pieces that have to come together in order to get the look right for the film and it's interesting to hear from the members of the design team and to get their thoughts on the challenges involved in their work.
Hoist the Colors (4:41) - This segment allows Zimmer to explain his inspiration for the "Hoist the Colors" composition that is used in the film for the opening scene. We learn how the song went from an idea through to a fully composed piece of music. Zimmer compares the pirates in the film to The Wild Bunch, accurately describing them as the last of a dying breed.
Inside the Brethren Court - This is a fun, interactive feature that lets us learn about the eight Pirate Lords from the film. We get to check out their costume designs, learn about their origins and their biographies and about their individual personality quirks. This is set up in a clever way and it works quite well. A brief video introduction is also included here.
The two discs are housed inside a keepcase, which contains a DVD map insert inside. A metallic slipcase covers the keepcase and adds some class to the packaging. Unfortunately, none of the extras on the second disc are properly flagged for progressive scan playback except for the two deleted scenes.
Overall this shapes up to be a nice presentation. The film isn't as good as its predecessors, it's simply too long and too meandering, but it's still a fun ride with some remarkable scenes and enjoyable characters. Plenty of extras add some value to the package as they take us behind the scenes and also give us a look at things from the performers' perspectives in addition to providing some interesting background details on the production. Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.