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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End
Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // December 4, 2007
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 24, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Picking up pretty much immediately where Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest left off, we meet up with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and the recently resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who have decided to rescue Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Many assume Sparrow to be deceased though unbeknownst to them he is currently locked up in Davey Jones' locker.

Their travels, with Jack now in tow, find them in hot water with Davey Jones (Bill Nighy) and then Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and unfortunately for our heroes, the two have formed an alliance with one another in hopes of saving the high seas from the scourge of piracy in the name of the East India Trading company. In order to stop Beckett and Jones from wiping everyone out, Sparrow and company must gather together the pirate lords and form an allegiance - but will they be powerful enough to stand up to Jones' mighty fleet? Probably not, so they lords decide that the best course of action would be to gather up the mystical pieces that hold the goddess Calypso captive so that they can free her and enlist her aid in their fight. It all leads up to a massive showdown in which the pirates must fight with everything they have against the East India Trading company or risk becoming extinct once and for all.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End is a bit of a mess in the plot department and at over three hours in length, it's much too long - there could have easily been a half hour or more chopped out of this film to quicken the pace and improve the flow. As it stands, this cut of the picture feels bloated and the messy storyline doesn't help matters much. This film is much weaker than the two that came before it and not nearly as much fun because of it. That said, the film isn't a total write-off, and in fact, there are aspects of the picture that work quite well and make the movie worth a watch.

On the surface level alone, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End looks fantastic. The battle scenes are fantastic, the effects are excellent, the make up and costume design is top notch and the attention to detail that is evident in the set design is quite remarkable. This is, visually, a very impressive picture and quite a feat in terms of technology and cinematography and the film works perfectly as eye-candy. A few of the performances are also enjoyable. Depp is his usual charismatic self and by this point is obviously very comfortable playing Jack Sparrow and enjoyable supporting rolls from Chow Yun-Fat (who steals the show as Taiwanese pirate lord Captain Seo Fang) and Keith Richards as Captain Teague were a nice touch. Keira Knightly still can't act all that well but she's fun to look at and casting her alongside Orlando Bloom makes her appear to be a better actress than she really is.

There are also some interesting elements in the plot that deserve some mention, as it is a considerably more layered work than the two films that came first. By this, the third film in the series, the world of the pirates has been pretty much established and so with that out of the way the story does go in a different direction than a lot of people probably thought it would. This is a darker, and noticeably more violent film - we see children hanged, and opponents skewered on the edge of a blade. This points in the direction of a more adult oriented picture and in many ways, At World's End is a more grown up film. The picture, intentionally or not, makes some interesting political comparisons by essentially labeling the pirates as freedom fighters, opposing the government that is trying to control them. The romantic sub-plot between Knightly and Bloom doesn't turn out the way we expect it to, and instead it too takes a darker turn than we expect. That said, even with those intelligent bits in the script and the interesting train of thought that the political comparisons can take us down, is a movie based on a theme park ride really the right place for that type of thing? Opinions can and will vary on this, obviously, and maybe it's because the film needed to hit a specific demographic that parts of the script don't work. It almost feels, at times, the movie is trying to be something different and trying to grow but that these growth spurts are hampered by the fact that the audience requires a certain amount of swordplay and a certain number of ship battles to be entertained. It could be that this is the reason for the confusion that is rampant throughout the film - it's almost as if the picture is trying to go in two different direction at once.

Lofty interpretations aside, however, even with the obvious pacing problems and the messy parts of the script, the film does contain some interesting and fun characters, some great action scenes and some amusing bits of comedy. There's certainly plenty of room left for improvement but the movie is not the disaster some would say it is. The visuals are remarkable, the story does have its moments and the premise is interesting. This alone makes it worth a watch and if it doesn't necessarily go anywhere once it's all said and done, at least more often than not it is fun entertainment.

The DVD:

Video:

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End arrives on DVD in a 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is quite good even if it isn't perfect. Some fine detail gets lost and a few of the darker scenes are a little on the soft and murky side. That said, color reproduction is good and skin tones are lifelike and natural despite a few scenes that have been intentionally given a blueish tint. Edge enhancement is never problematic and there aren't any mpeg compression artifacts to notice. For the most part, detail levels are strong and the image stays crisp and detailed throughout. There's a little bit of grain here and there but it's never overbearing - things look pretty good here.

Sound:

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.

Extras:

Disney/Buena Vista have spread the supplements in this set across two discs as follows:

Disc One:

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.

Disc Two:

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
(5:20)

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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